Skip to main content

Full text of "Processed World"

See other formats




$1.50 CHEAP 




Talking Heads P- 2 

Letters P- 4 

No Paid Officials P- 14 

Letters From Zona Monetaria P-30 

Traces P • 39 


That ®Mrf- Office! P- 63 

All of the articles in Processed World reflect the views of 
the author and not necessarily the views of other 
contributors or editors. 


K J ni B ?r^.ii5 

This is the fourth issue of 
Processed World, and the begin- 
ning of our second year. We are 
delighted and amazed at the depth 
and breadth of response to the 
magazine, particularly since the 
new year. Our letters section has 
grown again — keep 'em coming! 

This issue 's lead article ' 'No Paid 
Officials" brings to light a little 
known piece of recent San Francisco 
labor history. The story of the Social 
Service Employees Union offers us 
a look at a group of office workers 
who broke with traditional trade 
union organization and discovered 
new tactics and strategies. Interest- 
ingly, the same SEIU Local 400 that 
the SSEU broke away from in 1966, 
has recently become the prime 
beneficiary of San Francisco's new 
"agency shop" law. A brief analy- 
sis is presented in the DOWN- 
TIME! section. 

Con tinuing our ' ' Tales of Toil ' ' 
series is J. Gulesian, Temporary At 
Large. Her "Letters From Zona 
Monetaria" scrutinize the norms of 
office life in a series of sardonic 
reports on the hierarchy and cul- 
tural conformism around her. Her 
prediction of a new industry to deal 
with executive alienation is made 
believable by a speech we received 
from friends at Arthur Andersen <& 
Co. In the speech, excerpted in 

DOWNTIME!, a top company exec 
pleads with middle managers to be- 
lieve their jobs are not meaningless. 
Office life is further explored in 
Maxine Holz's review of That 
Office!, a play by and for clerical 
workers, currently showing around 
the Bay Area's community theaters. 
The play's portrayal of "the secre- 
tary" focuses on the complex 
emotions brought out by coping 
with a subordinate position in the 
office hierarchy. Particularly good is 
the way in which the play captures 
the combination of imagination and 
humor as the human response to 
office work. The short story 
"Traces" flashes us back to 
Hungary 1956, and forward again to 
Corporate Office Land 1982, in a 
juxtaposition of past revolt and 
current possibilities. 

Throughout our magazine's short 
existence we have tried to describe 
a different world, a world whose 
creation we hope to contribute to. 
What kind of world are we talking 
about? We have repeatedly said "a 
world free from authoritarian domi- 
nation and exploitation" or "a 
world free from the arbitrary con- 
straints of having to make a living in 
the money economy." Indeed, 


these sentences do describe in 
vague terms the world we seek. But 
what does it mean in this world to 
talk about such sweeping change? 

Of course, we do not have nor do 
we want to have a blueprint for a 
new society, but we do think it vital 
to begin imagining how things could 
be different. The first step in this 
direction is to thoroughly criticize 
all existing societies. We don 't want 
our goal mistakenly identified with 
any variant of "free market" Wes- 
tern capitalism or of the "com- 
munist" state capitalism of the 
USSR, China, Cuba and the rest. 

We are interested in a classless, 
state-less society, where decisions 
about daily life are made by those 
most directly affected by the conse- 
quences of the decisions. Some- 
times this might mean a highly 
decentralized, locally-based deci- 
sion-making process. Other times, 
it might mean a need for decision- 

making coordination on a continen- 
tal or even a global basis (for 
instance, over major ecological 
questions or to deal with natural 
disasters, shortages, etc.). Either 
way, this means a society of free 
individuals, capable of coping with 
social problems in a direct and 
conscious way, beyond present-day 
"needs" tike the maintenance of 
profits and power structures. 

Again, these are fairly general 
principles of a new social arrange- 
ment. We consider PW an outlet for 
more concrete explorations of Uto- 
pian ideas and hopes. 

We want to begin examining the 
problems of getting from here to 
there, as well as what we would like 
"there" to look like. We hope PW 
readers will contribute their 
thoughts and experiences to this 
quest. Keep sending us your let- 
ters, articles, stories, graphics, 
drawings, etc. 

Processed World — Made in Our Living Rooms 


Dear PW: 

Hey! We just got a great idea! If 
you can't beat them, join them! 

We should start up our own 
temporary agency and call it RED 
ROVERS: (of course, the slogan 
could be "Red Rover, Red Rover, 
send someone right over") the kick 
is that they are quiet fomenters of 
revolution, distributing pamphlets, 
and generally spreading the Word. 

If not a reality, it would make a 
great story... 

E. — San Francisco 

Dear Processed World, 

I have come across a small 
example of your journal within my 
CoEvolution, Winter 81. Enclosed is 
my check for $10 for my sub. 

I am impressed with what I read 
and I'm looking forward to reading 
an entire edition. 

My situation? I'm not even sure I 
know what it is. At present I am a 
Systems Software Clerk for a large 
oil company. I've been with them a 
bit longer than two years. I "enjoy" 
my job, it is diversified and keeps 
me busy. I do a lot of data entry, 
arranging and running reports, and 
miscellaneous. My co-workers have 
educated me in several systems. 

"They" tell me business is the 
only decent major (I attend a 
community college part-time and 
will have my AA by '83 — at last, 


my major being education — 
secondary). "They" tell me I should 
learn Cobol and Fortran to get 
somewhere from where I'm at. I'm 
not motivated to. I don't want to be 
a Programmer. But if I say that, I 
appear ungrateful. Dumb broad in 
their eyes. "They" laugh when I 
confess my major is education. (But 
telling some my major is Philosophy 
keeps them quiet and at a distance!) 

Big Business is not where I want 
to be — with dept. vs. dept., 
manager vs. manager, politics and 
high finance. No — that's not for 
me. But then I do seem to need the 
money. I've been divorced for 
nearly six years and I support two 
children, 11 and 10, one of whom is 
crippled and blind. Can I afford to 
drag them off on my dreams and 
move to Maryland or Colorado — or 
can I afford not to? 

I'd like to be involved with 
teaching and communication. The 
back to basics approach. I want to 
be involved in building a society my 
kids and I can survive in, have 
friends I can trust, and be with 

people who can love and allow 
others to love them. Those people 
seem rare to me. So many seem 
frightened by kindness, by love. 
Fear is understandable. There are a 
lot of confused and violent people to 
contend with. But running, hiding, 
is not the answer. What is the 
answer? Perhaps that is why I am 
writing. It seems strange to put this 
on paper. Strange to send it off to 
people I don't know. But maybe 
your ideas can help me. My dream 
is to have that BA degree before 
1988 — (part-time takes forever!) 
Still, that seems like a long time to 
just get by. Hopefully, I can get 
some educating experience by 
teaching at my church once a week. 
Do I have better choices? I hope so. 
In any case, I'll be looking 
forward to your journal and your 
ideas. Thank you for this opportun- 
ity to write. Perhaps I will be able to 
contribute to Processed World at 
some future date. 

L.S. — Parma, Ohio 

Model 384200 




• Save Money 

• Stop Excuses 

• Fully Automatic 

• 110 Volt 



Coffee break starts when button is pushed and bell 
rings... Break begins for everyone at same time. 
Minutes later, bell rings automatically (time adjustable). 
Employees return to work immediately. Minutes lost 
every day be extra-long coffee breaks steal from your 

From A Reader in Detroit 


Dear L.S., 

All of us at Processed World were 
very touched and pleased with your 
letter. I think the frustrations and 
desires you expressed are wide- 
spread — which is partly what 
inspired us to publish in the first 
place. Our project, in the most 
immediate sense, is to help validate 
and encourage dissatisfaction with 
what this world offers us. The 

source of so much difficulty in 
"coping" stems more from the 
society we live in than from indivi- 
dual failure. If people stop blaming 
themselves, and stop trying to fit 
into the established models, maybe 
we can begin acting to change the 
whole set-up. 

It would be facile and pretentious 
to claim that we have "answers" to 
the situations of individuals trapped 




s a re kill 

,r >9 me. 

r f^» 




° h ah- 
Co ^V, 

HP ***, 






c e 


From office workers at Stanford 


in the office world. For one thing, as 
long as this society remains based 
on profits and the power of corpora- 
tions and governments, and as long 
as the important decisions that 
affect us remain in the hands of 
entrenched authorities and bureau- 
cracies, the problems of survival 
and the difficulties in creating 
bonds of trust and friendship can 
only be partly and temporarily 
resolved. The pressure of earning a 
living already limits our choices 

Aside from being an outlet for our 
own creative impulses and desires 
to change the world, working toge- 
ther on P.W. and related activities 
has led to close friendships and to a 
sense of community that is so 
lacking in most of our lives. Of 
course we have plenty of problems 
and personal conflicts, and we don't 
always live up to our ideals of free 
social relationships. 

In addition to publishing and 
distributing P.W., we try to speak 
to people we work with, making 
friends and alliances that help 
alleviate the time spent at work. 
Wherever possible, we provide 
support for those who are trying to 
challenge the order we live under. 
We encourage people to make use 
of our resources, contacts and 

Apart from more or less regular 
editorial meetings we have begun to 
hold a sort of open house at a bar in 
the Financial District to meet, talk 
and make plans after work. . . 
/ hope you enjoy the magazine. 
Please keep in touch. 



Dear Dad, 

Why did I do it? Become part of 
PW magazine that is. Well, I was 
working at BofA, and it was 
ultra-beige in spirit and surround- 
ings. At this time I entertained a 
mild flirtation with local Working 
Women aficionados, but their res- 
pectability and ''proper channels" 
emphasis was tres ennui and a big 
yawn besides. So when a kindly 
temp worker told me he had heard 
reports that crazy people in the 
financial district were wearing VDT 
heads and shouting in the streets 
about office work, and when I ran 
into these same people during my 
lunch break, I felt, shall we say... 
sympathetically inclined. 

At first I was misled by the 
"professional" appearance of the 
magazine and was surprised to 
discover that it was put out by a 
small group of friends, all of them 
office peons like yours truly. My 
remaining two months at BofA were 
made a little easier by knowing 
other people who shared my rage 
about selling 40 hours a week to a 
place where too often your most 
intimate and scintillating compan- 
ion is a typewriter. I met people who 
questioned office work very deeply 
— both in the abstract and at the 
eminently practical level of how to 
survive in the oh-so-cheery office of 
today, while at the same time 
striking against it. 

You keep waiting, but if my 
rebelliousness is just a phase I'm 
certainly taking a long time to grow 
out of it. I show no signs of reaching 
for a steady, prestigious job. I work 
for Mr. Big as little as possible. And 
when I'm "Mr. Big's Girl" I try to 
get the best deal for myself and 
steal back my time, creativity, and 
self-respect in whatever ways are 
possible. PW helps invent more 


Well, that's enough for now Dad. 
In my next letter I'll tell you if crime 
pays, how much, who's hiring and 
how you have to dress for the job. 
Send my love to Snoodles, Chopper 
and Betsy. 

Bye now. 

Love, Helen 


I read the first two issues of your 
journal while visiting Vancouver. I 
could identify with personal contra- 
dictions of being an intellectual 
doing unskilled labor since I have 
always done menial manual labor 
myself. My current position is as a 
laborer on the garbage trucks for 
the City of Toronto. 

I don't mean to denigrate your 
more theoretical insights by discus- 
sing the personal contradictions 
involved in unskilled labor. Indeed I 
found your overall analysis of work 
and not-work to concur very much 
with my own ideas. But over the 8 
months that I worked as a garbage 
laborer, I have become much more 
aware of the elitism of the left and 
their misunderstanding of people 
who choose non-careerist survival 

My own position is summed up by 
paraphrasing the old dictum; "em- 
ployment if necessary, but not 
necessarily employment." I know 
that I have other options, so to 
speak, i.e. retraining in computers 
or electronics for instance, but I feel 
so alienated from this system that I 
find it difficult to direct my energy 
to increasing the social value of my 
skills when the only benefits that I 
will receive out of it is security and 
the remote possibility that my work 
will be more interesting. Otherwise 
any benefits certainly go to the 

Relaxing at the Highwater family 

abstract extraction of surplus value. 

Compared to most people that I 
know in Toronto, I prefer my 
alienation straight. When one does 
manual, unskilled labor, there is no 
way that one can mystify oneself 
into thinking that one is working for 
some social or political good. One 
works for survival and for some 
extra income to fund personal /pol- 
itical projects. But the careerists 
lose that clarity. Their politics and 
their careers begin to dovetail into 
each other. They become more 
concerned with their resume than 
with their lives. 

It was interesting to tell 
people what I did. People's re- 
sponses on hearing that I was a 
garbage laborer were readily divis- 
ible into two distinct categories. 
One was quite pragmatic. They 
were interested in how much mo- 
ney (good), working conditions, i.e. 
outside work, physical work, time 
for which we were paid that we 
didn't have to work, etc. The second 
category of responses was generally 
a non-response, usually a polite 
silence at best. After a while, I 
almost enjoyed maliciously telling 
people quite bluntly that I worked 
on garbage to shock them a bit. 

I had only recently moved to 
Toronto and it was quite a different 
left to what I had ever been around 
before. In the other cities that I had 



lived in, lefties (using the word very 
generally) were usually marginals 
or workers or some unbalanced 
combination. But in Toronto there is 
no large culture of marginalization 
as there was in Kitchener or 
Vancouver. I just had never had 
much contact with people who 
actually thought in career terms. It 
seems so unfortunate that people 
direct their energies towards an end 
that is not at all in opposition to the 
Machine. At best, they work 35 
hours a week for the system and ten 
hours a week against it. 

J.C. — Toronto 

Dear P.W. People; 

I was given your excellent publi- 
cation by a guy in a very fetching 
detergent outfit (TIED) on the 
corner of Carl and Cole on the 24th 
of December. As I didn't have a 
dollar on me at the time I promised 
to mail it in. So, for once, the check 
IS in the mail! 

Keep up the f ight- 
L.A. — San Francisco 

p.s. - I typed this on company 
paper, on company overtime and 
put it through the official postage 
meter. Pay ME shit, will they? 

Dear Processed World: 

In her dialogue with the person 
who participated in the United 
Stanford Workers organizing drive, 
Maxine Holz counterposes "direct 
action" to "unions." As a person 
who has also participated in white- 

collar union organizing — and who 
sympathizes with Processed 
World's viewpoint, this immediate- 
ly provokes certain questions in my 
mind: How can direct action in 
opposition to the employers be a 
collective activity of a workforce 
without mass organization? And 
isn't any mass organization which 
tries to bring together all the 
workers who are prepared to fight 
the boss an expression of some kind 
of unionism? 

Even your "informal groups" can 
be an affirmation of unionism. 
Imagine that a group of office 
workers, who have gotten to know 

""',;; nil' 

each other from working together 
for months in the same office, 
decide to ask the boss for a raise as 
a group. Such an incident of 
workers acting in union is an 
embryonic form of unionism. 

Direct action will only lead people 
"to think and act in ways that will 
lead to the kinds of changes in 





















society that have been discussed in 
the pages of Processed World" (as 
Maxine says), if it is collective. For 
sure, it can feel great to sabotage 
the company's computer or rip off 
supplies from the employer (at 
least, I've gotten a sense of satis- 
faction from doing it), but isolated 
acts of individuals won't bring 
workers to an awareness that we 
have the potential power to trans- 
form the world in the direction of 
freedom from domination and 

Most people seem pretty skep- 
tical about proposals for sweeping 
change. It's this feeling that we're 
just powerless individuals that will 
incline people to reject ideas of 
fundamental social change as "un- 
realistic." If "the feeble strength of 
one" describes your perception of 
your situation, you'll tend to strive 
for what you can get as an 
individual within the system. Col- 
lective action can alter the sense of 
power that people have because it 
changes the real situation from 
atomized individuals, cut off from 
each other, to the power of worker 
solidarity. Especially when the ac- 
tion and solidarity among working 
people spreads beyond the "nor- 
mal" channels and unites — and 
brings into active participation — 
ever-larger sections of the work- 
force — as in the recent movement 
in Poland. Movements on that scale 
begin to create the sense that it's 
"up for grabs" how society is 
organized. And if it's up for grabs, 
then efforts to change society in a 
freer and more humane direction 
seem more realistic to people. 

It's also during these periods of 
heightened struggle and mass par- 
ticipation that workers move to take 
over more direct control of their 
struggles with the employing class 
and in the process, create more 
independent ways of organizing 
their activity, free of top-down 



control. For example, during the 
"hot autumn" of 1969 in Italy 
workers at the Fiat and Alfa-Romeo 
auto plants created mass assem- 
blies, organizations of face-to-face 
rank-and-file democracy outside the 
framework of the hierarchical 

This happens because the top- 
down structures of such unions 
make them unsuited to carrying 
the struggle beyond the "normal" 
channels. The officials who run 
them, with their bureaucratic con- 
cern for avoiding risks to their 
organizations (and their status), will 
work to contain struggles within the 
framework of their longstanding 
relationship with the bosses. 

Thus, "union" can refer to top- 
down structures whose separation 
from the rank-and-file invariably 
means that they will act to contain 
worker protest within bounds ac- 
ceptable to the powers-that-be. Or 
"union" can refer to a form of 
association that is just the rank-and- 
file "in union," a mere means to 
get together and come to agreement 
on common goals and common 
action in dealing with the em- 
ployers. I think tendencies in both 
directions have always been present 
in labor history. 

Effective direct action means 
workers have to get together. 
"Informal groups" can be helpful in 
developing unity but I think mass 
organization on a larger scale is 
called for if working people are to 
develop the power to make the sort 
of social changes you have been 
talking about. Besides, "informal- 
ity" does not guarantee that an 
organization will be self-directed by 
the rank-and-file. Informal hier- 
archies can develop. 

And the kind of "union" that is 
run directly through mass meetings 
of all the workers is important, not 
just because it would be a much 
more effective tool in fighting for 

what we want right now, but also 
because mass organizations of this 
kind contain the premises of the 
kind of society we want to create "in 
embryo" — a society without 
bosses, free of the exploitation of 
some people by others, a society of 
genuinely free and equal humans. 

For a world without bosses, 
R.L. - SF 



The other day as I walked into 
Standard Oil's 575 Market Street 
building, I was suddenly saddened 
and felt hopeless. The change was 
so abrupt that I had to analyze it. 
Now, the metaphor is commonplace 
but what it signifies is still signifi- 
cant and worth considering in some 
depth — that is, the metaphor of 
being a small part of a machine. 

We talk about the corporate 
machinery. We recognize that effi- 
ciency is the main aim of a machine. 
Heat loss from friction, wear and 
eventual breakdown, production of 
inferior products, consumption of 
fuel — these are the kinds of losses 
which technicians seek to minimize 
when they work on a machine. Each 
part of a machine should perform 
the same way each time it is called 
upon. There should be no random 



behavior of the parts. The machine 
should do what you want it to. 

Only a certain kind of person 
makes a good machine part. Our 
most valuable people are those who 
do not make good machine parts. 
They produce unexpected and inex- 
plicable things like art, theory, 
humor, stories — things which 
derive their value from their 

The idea of having a machine 
made of humans is not a good idea. 
Humans do not perform with regu- 
larity, except for those few like 
Sergeant Ed Bowers, a redcoat 
guard in 575 Market who would do 
well behind a desk in a novel by 
Franz Kafka, who, in fact, may have 
screwed up his courage and walked 
right out of a novel by Franz Kafka 
into the lobby of 575 Market. My 
problems with Mr. Bowers are the 
problems of a human being trying to 
relate to a cotter pin in a mill wheel. 

Faulkner worked on a dynamo 
when he was writing AS I LAY 
DYING. The hum of the dynamo 
was a pleasant sound. He could 
think out there, and he only had to 
get up every now and then to stoke 
the fire. I'm speaking generally, 
and I'm really opening my position 
wide to criticism by doing so, but 
let's just say that the dynamo and 
all it stood for still left humans with 
a private dignity. Nobody's saying 
that back-breaking work is terrific, 
and I hope I'm avoiding any 
tendency to eulogize physical labor, 
much as we might eulogize the lives 
of peasants because they are tied to 
the ground, or the poverty of blacks 
because they have soul. I am saying 
that physical labor does not threat- 
en to insidiously change the work- 
er's mental processes to the "point 
that the worker suffers confusion 
and is psychologically malleable. 

Say a worker has to move a 
hundred boxes a day. His body gets 
used to moving boxes. He begins to 

look like somebody who moves a 
hundred boxes a day. Say a worker 
has to move a hundred pieces of 
information a day. His mind gets 
used to moving information. Say the 
boxes contain radioactive materials. 
The worker suffers not from the 
work but from the content of the 
stuff he works on. Say the informa- 
tion contains the elements of fascist 
state control, the ideas of subor- 
dination of the individual, submis- 
sion to rules, threats. The worker 
suffers not from the work, but from 
the content of the work. A philo- 
sophy gets transmitted like a virus. 

What we do not see hurts us. The 
transmission of disease long re- 
mained a mystery. It is transmitted 
by things we do not see. 

The long range danger of having 
corporations organized like feudal 
estates is that you infect a demo- 
cratic people with feudal germs. It 
is information that shapes people. 
The mover of boxes may go home 
and read Schopenhauer. The mover 
of information is fatigued with the 
movement of knowledge, and goes 
home to exercise. 

Even a mill worker, who works in 
a machine (a factory is a large 
machine) can at least readily iden- 
tify that aspect of his life that is 
machine-like, and has the mechan- 
ical model before him to rationalize 
the routine to which he is subjected. 
The machine has to work this way to 
make flour, or cloth. But the office 
worker is asked to accept routine as 
a way in itself. The worker in the 
modern bureaucracy is taught to 
accept routine as a way of opera- 
ting. The rules of the machine thus 
take on the character of arbitrary 
control rather than justifiable con- > 
trol. We learn to submit to authority 
as a general rule, and not as a 
necessary exception to the rule of 
individual freedom. 

I work as a temporary at Standard 
Oil and I don't have time to work on 






this letter any more. I realize the 
arguments are not fully developed 
but this is a first and last draft. And 
that's that. 

CD. — San Francisco 

EEEeeeeeee Processed World #3; 

high, y'all, really do hope these 
words find you in the very best of 
health and determined spirits. 

I really enjoyed that, and I've 
sent it into the mid-west to a few 
friends, one of whommmm works as 
a secretary at the Denver mint, so 
maybe y'all better get ready for 
somestrangelookin' change, hmm... 

...Being in prison and now in the 
hole (for my attitude) I of course am 
deprived of access to resource 
material — and am kind of 'out of it' 
so far as what's happening and like 
that. I've been good for several 
weeks in a row, so how do you feel 
about communicating more often — 
you know, like maybe some of the 
flyers laying around or back issues 
of the World? 

Anyway, I really do like your 
style — god! When the young ones 
begin to communicate in kind, these 
pyramids will... be reconstructed 
and mean something more than a 
procession into degrees of bondage. 
Nevertheless, take care, 


one of the 

Rainbow Dragonfly 



Forgotten History of San Francisco 


The Social Service Employees Union 
A Free Union 

"Without the historical experience of unions, union meant "the act of 
uniting and the harmony, agreement, or concord that results from 
such a joining." Significantly, then, the definition of the word 
unionize is "to cause to join a union; to make to conform to rules, etc. 
of a union." The beauty of the words "harmony, concord, agreement" 
are lost in the oppressive implication of the words "to cause to join" 
and "to conform to rules, etc." SSEU then, by my experience, is a 
union that does not try to unionize. 

I am in union with SSEU as a group of individuals. I am not a member 
of a union... I feel that there are many people like myself who don't 
like listening to the rhetoric, jargon and propaganda of union meetings 
and union leaders; who don't like organizations or individuals which 
make unilateral decisions that affect the lives of many people." 

-Cree Maxson, May 28, 1974 
The Rag Times, Vol. 1, No 16 

The Social Service Employees Union 
of San Francisco appeared in 1966, 
just as a widespread revolt was 
sweeping the country. While most 
people look back at the 60' s as a time 
of urban riots, the anti- Vietnam war 
movement, hippies, drugs and rock 'n 
roll, the SSEU represented a now-for- 
gotten convergence of cultural and 
worker rebellion. 

The SSEU aspired to be completely 
democratic. Its activities were carried 
on by the workers themselves, on 
their own time and sometimes on 
work time. Decisions about union 
activities were made collectively by 
both union and non-union workers. 
During its entire existence (between 

approximately 1966 and 1976) it had 
no paid officials and signed no 
contracts with the Welfare Depart- 
ment management. 

The 200 -I- workers involved in SSEU 
at its peak evolved a unique strategy 
for improving their own conditions as 
workers and for challenging the basic 
authoritarian relations that prevailed 
(and still prevail) around them. This 
strategy depended on the diverse and 
wide-open media they created, con- 
sisting of uncensored newspapers and 
leaflets. It was also based on a 
dialogue/confrontation process be- 
tween the workers and their mana- 
gers, welfare administrators, and 
government officials. 







" Bureaucrats In A Briefcase" 

Frank Thompson, Director of Personnel 
Management: My wife and I were 
vacationing in sunny Acapulco. It was 
great... but something was missing. I 
yearned for petty details, meaningless 
routines, and underlings. Then I re- 
membered, my wife had packed my 
"Bureaucrats In A Briefcase" brief- 
case. Boy, was I relieved!! 

William J. P. Richards, Loans and 
Securities Officer: One night an old 
college chum took me to a wild party 
south of Market. Luckily, I didn't forget 
my "Bureaucrats In A Briefcase" 
briefcase. Just a flip of the latch 
unleashed a team of normal American 
businessmen! They saved my evening!! 

Available from the Nerdley Briefcase Co. 




In early 1966, some welfare workers 
banded together to defend co-workers 
from summary dismissals. They also 
began formulating and pressing a 
number of grievances. As soon as 
workers acted for themselves, how- 
ever, their union (Building Service 
Employees International Union — 
BSEIU - Local 400, which later 
changed into SEIU) became as much 
an obstacle to their efforts as their 

For example, one of the first 
grievances raised was over space. 
People worked at desks jammed 
together in cramped quarters. When 
the welfare workers discovered a 
space code in the state regulations 
requiring more space-per-worker they 
wrote letters of complaint to the Social 
Services Commissioner and the State 
Dept. of Social Welfare. They gave 
them to their union to send, but found 
out later that the union hadn't sent 

Shortly thereafter the Executive 
Secretary of the union chastised the 
welfare workers for sending irate 
letters to administrators who were his 
friends, and with whom he had 
political understandings. In response, 
the workers demanded to have the 
question of union representation put 
on the agenda of the next union 

The next meeting, obviously stacked 
by friends of the union's leader who 
owed him favors, had the largest 
attendance of any in the local's 
history. Then-Executive Secretary 
John Jeffrey pushed measures through 
which dissolved the union's welfare 
section, abolished the workers' un- 
censored "Dialog' ' newspaper, barred 
Dept. of Social Services (DSS) work- 
ers' leaflets, and prevented welfare 
worker members of the union from 
holding meetings at Local 400 's office 
or electing any union officers to 
represent their section. About fifty of 
the affected workers then decided to 
start an independent union, which 
was named the Social Service Em- 
ployees Union (SSEU). 



Statement on the Goals and Methods 
of Social Service Organization 

adopted by the San Francisco SSEU General Membership 
Meeting of September 20, 1967 

Many of us have the growing feeling that our backs are up against 
the wall, that the administration is regulating us out of doing any 
meaningful work. 

If we are allowed to retain our jobs without being fired, we are forced 
to live in degradation. A great fear of losing one's job, of losing the 
benefits of the society we live in, vies with a sense of repression all 
about us. We must do something about it. 
The only method of survival is to fight back. We have rejected 
running. There is nowhere to go, and we cannot run fast enough. To 
join the dehumanizing Establishment is impossible. It is giving up. on 
ourselves. But the individual cannot fight back alone. The only 
gratifying and effective method is to fight alongside and to enjoy the 
full support of others. 

In order to do this, to persuade others to help us and to join them in 
helping themselves, we try to make our union a place where people 
can come to satisfy their needs. We do not put the organization first. 
We do not ask the people who join with us to go beyond the limits they 
want to go. We are oriented to our members and to everyone else who 
shares our work. All people, union and non-union, are encouraged to 
participate in each struggle, and in deciding what the union should 
struggle for. Grievances are fought for non-union members, as well as 
union members. Our goal is for people to use the union organization in 
deciding their own lives. 

Business unionism, based on control from above, imitating and 
collaborating with management power structures, cannot achieve this. 
We do not want to fall into the same traps as the AFL-GIO. Only an 
organization that functions as a popular movement of its members, 
and is controlled by them, can enable them to survive and develop as 
human beings. 

People can exert control over their work lives only through 
organizing. Through rank-and-file organization social service workers 
can make the policy and determine the programs that define their 
work. Union organization which is not designed for its members to 
operate the union frustrates these efforts. 

People are increasingly distrustful of and unwilling to commit 
themselves to organizations that do not make popular activity the 
center of their attention. 

We emphasize that workers must rely on their own mutual efforts, 

rather than putting blind faith in a collective bargaining contract. 

Contracts can have the effect of trading away workers' ability to 

influence their jobs, thus putting an arbitrary ceiling on their 




Elevated workstations for supervisors allow eye-to-eye contact with i 


The workstations on thefhx>r level are lopped with a glass divider to afford supervisory control. 

Persuading people that their well-being can be guaranteed by one or 
another politician discourages them from taking charge of their own 
lives. We see little change in people's lives when a politician who 
"really has the people's interests at heart" replaces another, leaving 
the people themselves powerless. 

We recognize that social service workers as a lone force will not solve 
(heir ultimate problems. In order to develop the strength required for 
ultimate solutions, we believe in cooperating, in whatever way 
deemed acceptable by our membership, with all groups of people in 
the community who have developed popular organizations in their own 

We believe our emancipation is possible only by people controlling 
the conditions under which they work and determining the work they 
do. We have tried to organize our union so as to encourage and 
support each member in his efforts to accomplish this. Organization 
should help people develop self-confidence in confronting manage- 
ment, gaining dignity in their work, and changing their jobs to their 
own satisfaction. 

We are not busy building a mighty edifice to wheel and deal in power 
politics. We do not buy and sell anything. When we enter into 
negotiations with administration, we go for as much as we can get, 
and organize support to get it. We have never agreed to give up 

Neither are we simple trade unionists, pursuing only grievances and 
economic gains for our members. We are defending ourselves. We are 
taking the offensive; we are going for everything we can get. There is 
nothing that will satisfy us short of emancipation. 




As U.S. prosperity seemed to be 
peaking, and the welfare/warfare 
state assumed its present enormous 
size and importance in daily life, 
millions of people organized them- 
selves in active opposition. Rising 
expectations and desires quickly ex- 
ceeded what daily reality had to offer. 
While many focussed their opposi- 
tional energies on specific issues, all 
kinds of people rejected traditional 
roles and attitudes and attempted to 
find new ways to live, work, and have 

In San Francisco, long a city with a 
bohemian underground and strong 
oppositional currents, the "flower 
children" or hippie subculture 
bloomed and was made famous by the 
media-hyped "Summer of Love" in 
the Haight-Ashbury district in 1967. 
For many people "dropping out" of 
the "establishment" meant a rejec- 
tion of regular work. Still faced with 
the inflexible demands of a money 
economy, however, these "dropouts" 
often turned to the welfare system for 
survival. As counterculturists came 
into regular contact with the social 
workers of the welfare bureaucracy, 
the two groups began sharing ideas 
and perspectives. 

Very soon, most welfare workers 
stopped seeing themselves as repre- 
sentatives of the state and the welfare 
system. Instead, they counseled wel- 
fare recipients on how to best take 
advantage of "the system." But more 
importantly, they spoke out for them- 
selves, as workers trying to be 
creative in their work, and helpful to 
people in need. They went along 
with the widely-held notion within the 
SSEU that it was part of a broader 
movement for fundamental social 

Curiously, though, this notion does 
not seem to have prompted the SSEU 
to a critique of the welfare system as 
such. There is little or no mention in 

its publications of the role of the 
welfare system in controlling the 
poor, nor much reference to the 
welfare workers' own role in main- 
taining this control. SSEU members 
challenged specific injustices both in 
their own condition as workers and in 
the allocation of benefits to recipients. 
But they seldom explicitly condemned 
the social relationships that make 
welfare necessary. Perhaps th? feel- 
ings of self-acceptance and satisfac- 
tion gained from helping people get 
benefits largely blinded most 
SSEUers to the longer-term implica- 
tions of their work. 


Basing its activities and tactics on 
the needs and desires of individual 
workers, the SSEU developed a 
strategy of non- violent, incessant 
pressure on the welfare hierarchy. 
The union eschewed individual acts of 
insubordination since these usually 
resulted in firings. Instead they 
evolved a dialogue/confrontation 
process, whereby workers would pur- 
sue grievances over nearly anything 
that concerned them via direct spoken 
or written communication with the 
pertinent administrators. 

'jitL^i*. i 

Their dismissals brought the protest 



"The strategy of dialogue is profoundly different from the approach 
employed by a hired representative. Lawyers, politicians, professional 
negotiators, paid union representatives seem to exclude the grievant 
so far as possible from the crucial events that occur in the pursuit of 
his or her grievance. They have a vested interest in creating and 
maintaining a mystique that only they as professional representatives 
are capable of understanding. Then, too, the active displeasure of the 
grievant generates a problem in management control. Administration 
and professional representatives have a common interest in settling 
the grievance in such a way that there is no fundamental change in the 
material relations between administration and the grievant. Whatever 
is done, is done for the grievant, or to the grievant, but, so far as they 
can contrive it, never by the grievant. The grievant's job is to work and 
theirs is to decide." 

-ORGANIZING: The Art of Self-Defense In 

Middle-Class Occupations by Burt Alpert 

(1974; Vocations For Social Change; Oakland, CA) 

Doggie Diner 



Humanized Interface? 
Yes, I'm All For It!" 

The pressure from below created by 
the dialogue strategy often led to 
administrative hearings with mana- 
gers, commissions, city boards of 
supervisors, etc. The SSEU demand- 
ed and won rights for employees to 
appear before such hearings to de- 
fend their own interests. They also 
won the right to introduce any 
evidence or call any witnesses that 
they felt would support their case. 

Although they pursued numerous 
legal avenues of protest, the SSEU 
never relied on paid officials to 
represent the workers involved. Their 
efforts in the arena of commission 

hearings and similar settings were 
devoted to allowing people to speak 
for themselves. And while they would 
do their best to get as much as 
possible from the authorities in any 
given situation, they never signed 
away any rights (such as the right to 
strike or to take any other actions to 
help themselves), nor did they ever 
agree to stop trying to gain further 
concessions from management. 
The following is excerpted from 
"The Labor Contract: Nugget or 
Noose?", a leaflet put out by Burt 
Alpert of the SSEU during the 1968 
fight over contract bargaining: 



There are two basic methods of collective bargaining. Both result in 
written guarantees: the one, a directive by management; the other a 
contract (or "agreement") between management and workers. 

result of grievance action. Workers with a specific grievance, or group 
of grievances — whether in a unit, building or entire department, 
organize a protest. The protest may take the form of submitting 
petitions, balking at doing certain work, forcing management into 
conferences, work stoppages, slowdowns, or going on strike. 

As a result of the protests, administration negotiates with the 
employees, or with a committee chosen by them, and issues a 
directive or bulletin establishing improvements. 

On their part, the workers agree to nothing: Administration has 
published the bulletin, not they. For the moment they may accept 
what is granted in the bulletin — but they are free to renew their 
protests, in the same or other forms, and to renegotiate at any time. 
Out of this there grows a continuous strengthening of employees' 
bargaining position and an expansion of their control of the job. 

[Through this method] workers gained rights... which... were 
recognized by administration in a departmental bulletin that has the 
force of law. 

collective bargaining, employees present a list of demands to 
administration. If the demands are not met, a strike vote is held. As a 
result of the strike vote, or if a strike occurs, a negotiating committee 
meets with administration and comes to a tentative agreement. If this 
meets with the strikers' approval, a contract is signed for a stipulated 
time (one/four years). The workers return to work. The process is 
renewed at the end of the contract. 

A contract being an agreement, each side gives something. The first 
thing that the workers give is the guarantee that they will not take any 
strike — or other action during the life of the contract. 

If there is a violation of the contract, the matter, as almost universally 
agreed to in contracts, is handed over to a compulsory or binding 

arbitrator. In most instances, the "arbitrator" rules in favor of the 

administration — that there has not been a violation (or the violation is 

"beyond the control of" the administration), and that is the end of the 

The only way in which this can be overturned is through grievance 
action on the part of the workers. They are forced to do what they 
could have done previously without the contract, but in doing it now 
they must oppose not only administration, but also The Contract, and 
— the union. 

The collective bargaining contract may appear attractive, 
particularly to workers who are not inclined to be active, because in 
One Big Strike it promises to settle everything (not given away to 
management) for good - that is, for a year. The dismal failure of one 
public employees' strike after another that has had a labor contract as 
its aim, indicates that this is an impossibility. 


Volume One, Number Five social service employees union (sseu) March 4-10, 1974 


1. Why isn't the legal staff of the AFL- 
CIO Service Employees Interhation Union 
fighting the proposed termination of cum- 
ulative sick leave and Election Day holi- 
days through the Courts? In 1970 after 
the last city strike, Mayor Alioto ad- 
mitted that the proposed deletion of 
Civil Service increments, which spun 
many workers Into the picket lines, was 
not legally tenable as shown by a court 
decision in Nevada in 1943. 

2. If all city workers are asked to honor 
the picket lines, why can't all city wor- 
kers vote on striking? 

3. Is a person not a member of a striking 
union, who decides to come to work a scab? 

4. If someone walks through the line, will 
there be violence, or will the right of in- 
dividual choice be respected? 

5. Will all aspects of negotiation between 
the AFL-CIO and City Management be made 

6. The Board of Supervisors is presently 
asking each City department to cut back on 
personnel by 10%. It is stated by you that 
the City would be losing "potential quali- 
fied employees". Are such employees of 
temporary status, or are they those who 
would be potentially hirable? How would 
such a strike prevent layoffs or hiring? 

7. Does SCIU have a strike fund? If so, 
would this fund be available to all who 
went out on strike? 

8. How can SEIU expect non-members of SEIU 
unions to honor or support their strike 
when they supported and pushed through an 
ordinance which would not have joint col- 
lective bargaining? As the Employee Re- 
lations Ordinance stands, where SEIU will 
have exclusive bargaining rights, non-SEIU 
unions and Independent Individuals will 
have their rights of representation cur- 
tailed and will not be able to negotiate 
their working conditions or standards of 
living. Should workers adversely affec- 
ted by such an Ordinanace be expected to 
support those who actively supported it? 

9. Will the Municipal Railway go out in 
support this year? When they did not work 
In the 1970 strike, they lost four days' 

These questions have been posted to the 
•SEIU Joint Council with invitation for 
comments. Responses will be printed in 
THE RAG TIMES. Herb Weiner, xf>934 


Last Tuesday morning my supervisor 
stopped by my desk. 

"Do you plan to work during the^Strike?" 

"What Strike?" 

"Local 400 is striking because the Civil 
Service Commission wants to take back Elec- 
tion Day as a paid holiday." 

"If I work will I get time-and-a-half?" 

"No, but if you don't work you won't 
get paid at all ." 

"What if I get sick... for real?" 

"You can't get sick when there's a strike." 

Local 96 (AFSCME) has been reminding me 
for many weeks, with Kentucky Fried Chicken, 
ballpoint pens, and balloons, that Collective 
Eargaining Unit elections are going to have 
to take place sooner or later, and they'd 
really like me to vote for them. The AFL- 
CIO hasn't fed me or ballooned me, but it 
looks like they do intend to give me something 
to remember them by: either time off the job 
without pay, or the experience of crossing a 
picket line for the first time in my life. 

Of course, they do have a good issue: if 
we don't get election day off, we may not 
bother to go out and vote their boy Joe into 
the Governor's Mansion. However, with the 
money the city saves from strikers' salaries, 
they'll be able to give us election day off, 
and we will gratefully give both Joe and the 
AFL-CIO our vote at their respective polls. 

"Your name is on the list." 

"What list?" 

"The list of people who'll be allowed to 
cross the picket line." 

"Who's allowing me to cross the picket 
line? Who gets that list?" 

"Oh, I don't know. The Administration, 

I guess." 

Rachel Heyman 
LlioibiHty Wf!r' , 'f? ,r 


If your nose 1s close to the grindstone rough, 
And you keep 1t there long enough, 
In time you'll think there is no such thing 
As brooks that babble and birds that stng. 

These three will all your world compose — 
Just you, the stone, and your silly old nose. 

Submitted by Ferdinand Fabian 



Fundamental to the success of the 
SSEU's strategy was the publicity 
they created to keep each other, and 
any interested outsiders, informed 
about the situation. The monthly 
newspaper Dialog served as an open 
forum for the exchange of ideas and 
information. During most of its exis- 
tence (1966-74?) its policy was to print 
everything any welfare worker sent 
in, completely unedited. Later la- 
round 1971) The Rag Times, a weekly 
8-page mimeographed news-and- 
opinion sheet, was created by workers 
in the Aid to Families with Dependent 
Children (AFDC) section. Dialog con- 
tinued to appear concurrently until 
they both gradually died out around 

For almost five years, a mimeo- 
graphed leaflet appeared nearly every 
morning on every desk though five or 
more welfare office buildings. These 
leaflets were created by over a 
hundred different workers, both 
members and non-members of SSEU, 
and addressed a wide range of 
subjects. Individuals would make 
their grievances known to co-workers 
and the administration in leaflet form, 
demand action from management, 
and then follow up by publicizing the 

results, or lack of them, in a new 
This technique puts management in 
a difficult position. Any heavy-handed 
reactions will only further the anger 
and independence of the workers. On 
the other hand, if they just give in to 
the demands of the aggrieved worker, 
other workers will be encouraged to 
present their grievances and expect 
immediate results. Exposed in this 
way, authority loses either way. 


Equally vital to the SSEU's success 
was their willingness to take imme- 
diate collective action to confront 
problems. One time, fifty welfare 
workers left work in mid-morning and 
went to a Civil Service Commission 
hearing. All were reprimanded for 
leaving work, but they were given the 
right to send five representatives to 
future Commission hearings. 

The SSEU put a lot of energy into 
public hearings, because of their 
confidence in public dialogue/pres- 
sure as a means of effecting change. 
Even though participation in such 

Demonstration of welfare workers organized through SSEU 
outside the main San Francisco welfare office. 



hearings seldom brings any signifi- 
cant results, the gaining of represen- 
tation did signify an assertion of 
independence and self-organization 
by the SSEU workers. 

In another instance of direct action in 
late summer 1968, twenty-one work- 
ers went to the Dept. of Social 
Services administrative offices to 
discuss impending layoffs. Although 
they received 5-10 day suspensions 
for sitting in the administrative offices 
for four hours, the layoffs were 

Some months later, sixty workers 
participated in a symbolic "case- 
dumping" in the office of the divi- 
sion's Assistant Director after a big 
increase in their workload. Their 
willingness to do things like this in 
relatively large groups gave them 
leverage against intimidated admini- 
strators. It also made administrators 
reluctant to challenge them through 
speedups and other forms of harass- 


The SSEU didn't find the welfare 
administration to be its only enemy. 
In early 1968, the same Local 400 of 
SEIU which had earlier expelled the 
welfare section dispatched a paid 
organizer to recruit members. At that 
time, the SSEU was growing rapidly, 
making the administration uneasy. 
Although the Local 400 organizer 
didn't have much success with the 
workers in the Dept. of Social 
Services, he did manage to recruit 
some members in other areas of the 
welfare bureaucracy. 

Also in early 1968, the Progressive 
Labor Party (PLP), a maoist "van- 
guard party," dispatched a small 
group to the welfare department to 
recruit followers. By being very active 
and taking responsibility for the 
newspaper, the PLPers managed to 
get editorial control over the workers' 

Dialog, and in short order began 
printing a barrage of pro- 4 'collective 
bargaining" articles and opinions 
(i.e. in favor of affiliating with 
AFL-CIO, signing a contract with the 
administration, censoring the news- 
paper, etc.). And, as is always the 
case with Leninists, the PLP pre- 
vented the publication of any ideas 
that didn't fit their mold of "political 

During the summer of 1968, a bitter 
fight erupted between most of the 
SSEU-affiliated workers and an odd 
coalition of SEIU trade unionists, 
various Marxist-Leninist parties 
(PLP, Socialist Workers, Commun- 
ists, etc.), and Democratic/Republi- 
can party hacks. The ' 'coalition' ' was in 
favor of joining the AFL-CIO, engag- 
ing in collective bargaining as an 
exclusive bargaining agent, signing a 
contract with the administration, and 
eliminating the free flow of ideas by 
"editing" the newspaper. After sev- 
eral months, which took their toll on 
the strength and active membership 
of SSEU, a September 1968 vote of 
the general membership repudiated 
the goals of the coalition by better 
than a 2-to-l margin. Soon thereafter 
the PLP and its coalition partners left 
the department and went to look for 
other places to "organize." 

In the early 70' s, the Service 
Employees International Union creat- 
ed a "national local" (#535) for 
federally-employed welfare workers. 
After some initial success at unioni- 
zation in the Los Angeles area for 
Local 535, SF's Local 400 gladly 
turned its jurisdiction over welfare 
workers to it. Local 535 recruited 
some welfare workers in San Fran- 
cisco, and soon began a strategy to 
"build the union": a yearly ritual 
strike, used by Local 535 as a way to 
gain members and to establish exclu- 
sive bargaining rights for itself. 

SSEU members, now a dwindling 
minority in the welfare bureaucracy, 
found themselves in the awkward 
position of being against these strikes: 



from The Rag Times, Vol. 1, No. 5, March 4-10, 1974 

The yearly morality problem is upon us again. In making a decision 
not to strike one hopes not to lose friends who feel strongly that to 
strike is the best tactic to improve conditions. Again I plan not to strike 
yet I believe in fighting the same injustices as those who plan to strike. 

I feel the yearly SEIU strike is programmed by union leaders who 
currently are battling each other for membership in order to establish 
more power when collective bargaining units are created. Strike in the 
past ten years has replaced real organizing and become a method to 
recruit members. The pattern is: Condense and exert all energy a 
month or two before salary raises. City Hall anticipates the strike 
action and so makes their bid impossibly low. Union leaders then 
respond angrily and have a platform for the media and can speak 
with outraged moral conviction. They who risk nothing set up and 
control the proceedings from beginning to end. Finally the strike — 
which may produce an additional one or two percent. Little precaution, 
if any, is taken for people involved because it is "scheduled" to last 
only a few days. The possibility it could go on indefinitely is hardly 

...I feel the SEIU strike, a strike planned and negotiated by union 
leaders is not progressive, but the opposite. It slows down progress. 
Traditional unions work for conformism, for a mass undifferentiated 
way of acting, or for precisely what we are ordered to do every day for 
the city and county of San Francisco. It substitutes for real organizing 
year after year. 

I feel strongly there are no short-cuts to freedom of a just salary. The 
amount of organizing done by every person every day and the trust 
created by working things out together is the process to win a real 
increase in salary. With enough worker activity, strikes would be an 
obsolete tactic. The mayor and supervisors are comfortable dealing 
with union representatives. They fear meeting with workers 
themselves. They can deal with fellow-bureaucrats. They are afraid of 
the spontaneity of individual workers when they are organized. Rather 
than remain outside as in a strike, I feel it would be more effective to 
control the machinery inside, not abandon it to the administrators. 

Finally, I feel by striking I would reinforce a process which means I 
could retire in 20 years after 20 strikes and be assured 20 miniscule 
raises. But by working for change without controllers, I have hope the 
administrators will one day meet such opposition as transcends even 
my liveliest imagination. 

— J udy Erickson, aided by Gayle Abbott 



Because they've discovered Nat- 
Co's IRA's® — Income Redistri- 
bution Activities. 

Chances are, you've still got the 
same worries these top executives 
have just escaped forever. You're 
anxious about the slumping share of 
profits in the national income, angry 
with workers who won't take pay 
cuts in the company's interest, who 
insist on expensive luxuries like 
hamburger and heating oil. 

But with new NatCo IRA's, you 

don't have to confront your em- 
ployees head-on anymore — you 
can siphon the liquid capital you 
need right out of their pockets. 
NatCo is a unique partnership 
between public and private sectors. 
NatCo IRA's have the patented 
Double-Whammy® that gets the 
cash flowing back in the right 
direction — your direction. 

Here's how it works: 

1)The Federal Government, Nat- 
Co's Big Brother, cuts back income 
and business taxes and prunes away 
costly, wasteful social programs like 
school lunches. 

2) NatCo's member corporations 
raise prices to consumers while 
member banks, S&L's and labor 
unions get them to invest their 
paychecks in securities and retire- 
ment plans. 

That way you have their money to 
invest now while it's worth some- 
thing. They get "guaranteed" re- 
turns that sound astronomical but 
quickly come back to you via the 
impersonal magic of inflation. 

Sound complicated? It's meant to 
be. With IRA's, they not only don't 
know you're taking a huge bite out 
of their paychecks — they even 
think they're the ones getting 
something for nothing. 
Making America Work 
For US Again. 




The SSEU slowly dissolved in the 
1970 's, like other small independent 
unions that grew out of the rebellious 
60's. The last official SSEU meeting 
was in 1976. By some accounts the 
dissolution process began as early as 
1970, although different workers still 
pay dues to this day, and publication 
continued until 1975. 

The SSEU aspired to be part of a 
general social movement for emanci- 
pation; emancipation not just from the 
real and rhetorical shackles of capi- 
talism, but also from the countless 

ways we have internalized our op- 
pression and learned to accept our 
role in a world based on hierarchy and 

During its existence, the SSEU 
brought about a remarkable unfolding 
of different workers' creative en- 
ergies. What's more, as Burt Alpert 
remembers it, the experience of 
actively challenging the limitations 
imposed by the daily grind "brought 
people out into the world," asserting 
their uniqueness and desires. Rather 
than seeking a ' 'unity' ' of thought and 
purpose, the SSEU encouraged the 
widest possible diversity, and in fact 
such a diversity flowered at the time. 

Air-Conditioned Nightmare 



The dialogue/confrontation tactic 
went a long way toward unmasking 
authority as illegitimate and unrea- 
sonable. More importantly, it 
strengthened people's confidence in 
their own ideas and in their ability to 
do things for themselves. Using a 
simple typewriter and mimeograph, 
the SSEU participants offered them- 
selves and their co-workers the possi- 
bility of putting his/her ideas out into 
the public realm, further empowering 
the individuals involved. 

Moreover, the fact that workers were 
in constant, open contact with each 
other about a wide variety of subjects, 
including working conditions and 
problems they faced collectively, put 
an enormous amount of pressure on 
management. After all, if workers 
were figuring out their problems for 
themselves, what did they need 
administrators for? 

But this strategy also put pressure 
on the workers themselves: to keep 
the channels of communication open; 
to figure out how to deal with 
disagreements on tactics, strategies, 
etc. ; to keep the heat on management 
and figure out new ways to subvert 
management control... the energy to 
keep all this going came from around 
200 individuals. 

Their energy, in turn, came largely 
from the perception that something 
bigger was going on, a social move- 
ment of which they were but a small 
part. By challenging the oppressive 
conditions of everyday life, SSEU 
participants felt that their actions, in 
concert with others, would lead to a 
more generalized transformation of 
society. Keeping up the energy 
became increasingly difficult. Today, 
many ex-SSEUers are (understand- 
ably) burned out. 

Actually, this remains one of the key 
dilemmas faced by those of us who 
aspire to participate in a rebellion for 
a free society: How can we challenge 
the immediate conditions we face, 
and at the same time contribute to a 
more generalized oppositional move- 

ment? What are the connections 
between workplace organizing and 
resistance, and the larger problems of 
world capitalism and authoritarian 
domination? Also, how can groups of 
people organize themselves in their 
own interest, hang together and last, 
without turning into new institutions 
of power and control? 

The SSEU pioneered a unique 
approach to organizing in the office. It 
was based, however, on the special 
conditions of welfare work. Most 
important among these was the 
workers' perception of their jobs as 
having some socially useful quality — 
however ambiguous this quality may 
seem in retrospect. 

This is in marked distinction to office 
work in CorporateOfficeLand where 
the work has no relation whatsoever 
to the direct satisfaction of human 
needs and few pretend that it does. 
The vast majority of office work done 
in San Francisco or any other financial 
center has to do with circulating 
money or wealth-related information 
around. It is difficult to imagine why 
anyone would want to have more 
direct control over essentially useless 
work, except perhaps to put an end to 

Nevertheless, contemporary office 
workers can learn a lot from the SSEU 
experience in terms of strategy, 
possibilities for creative resistance, 
and obstacles that will be encountered 
in any organizing effort. The impor- 
tance of the individual and his/her 
desires and needs can be seen in the 
SSEU story as the central concern of 
organizing. A new movement for 
social liberation will not be created by 
existing (or new) bureaucracies or 
organizational imperatives. It will 
have to be based on the creativity, 
humor, and resourcefulness of freely 
cooperating individuals. But first we 
must contact each other. Isolation is 
our greatest problem now. 




By J . Gulesian — Temporary-at-Large 

Thanks for PW 3, which came 
wrapped in plastic, mangled by the 
Postal Service machinery. It was good 
to hold something made by unalien- 
ated labor. 

It was also good to contrast working 
class fantasies with management 
ones. Have you seen the TV commer- 
cial for Fortune? Now, that's fantasy 
— swordplay and castration (sym- 
bolic, nearly subliminal) in the board 
rooms of America. 

The latest on the management- 
workers war is that the Reagan 
administration won't prosecute af- 
firmative action even though discrim- 
ination against minorities and others 
is still illegal. Kiplinger's "Newslet- 
ter" reported this in its very last issue 
of 1981 with a special reminder to 

note it carefully. 

I spend a lot of my unbound time 
reading about work. Are you familiar 
with The Hidden Injuries of Class, 
(Sennett & Cobb, Vintage, 1973) or 
Breaktime (Lefkowitz, Hawthorne, 
1979)? Both are good reference 
sources about attitudes towards work. 
I'm still trying to understand why I 
can't look for a permanent job and 
how I can live without one. Am I in the 
front or the rear of a social movement, 
and does it matter? Is the game life, 
or is life the game? 

The management trainees here 
decorate their cubicles with all kinds 
of anti-management paper. Nothing 
strange about that except that the 
manager has noticed and commented 
in a memo. "Directories, 'to-do' lists 



and cartoons are wallpapered on 
every vertical staff surface. I find it 
painful to sign the monthly rent check 
for this building when I see what our 
working quarters look like. Since we 
all spend so many of our waking hours 
in this building, wouldn't it make 
sense to take a few minutes to make 
the overall appearance a little more 
attractive?" It's now two months later 
and the look of the vertical staff 
surfaces hasn't changed. One exam- 
ple in my line of vision: a Xeroxed 
cartoon with 2-inch lettering reading 
"They can't fire me! Slaves have to 
be sold!" Actually, slaves don't have 
to be sold; they can be discarded. 
The welfare lines are full of them. 
This morning these vertical staff 
surface paperers were showing off the 
afterwork clothes they'd wear to a 
punk rock concert. The most conserv- 

ative had the most outre costume, 
which he claimed was absolutely 
unique — a pair of chef's pants. 

Fashion fascism is the rule here. 
There's certainly no punk style from 
8:30-5. The women in management 
are dressing for success; secretaries 
wear pants and success knock-off s; 
plantation workers labor in polyester. 
My fantasy today is that there are 
giant petri dishes on the 39th floor 
cloning thousands more of these 
workers. Will the new ones take 
better care of their vertical staff 

Call me Mister Kurtz. 

Although this job is full of the usual 
disadvantages, it does offer the 
chance to expropriate from the expro- 
priators in a modest way. Whether or 

i <T* 

I've worked so hard to get to where I 
am today. And yet. . . I feel so empty. ' ' 



Temporary Clerical 

Work blitzkriegs the morning 
10:05. The shelling subsides 
to a shock of stillness: 
hum of the copier, 
steam rising from the cup. 

- Steinberg - 



not I can actually become involved in 
pushing the advantages of carcin- 
ogens in drinking water is a real 

Interesting conversation now about 
conditions at the PG&E building — 
workers complaining about airborne 
particles and "dust" on office win- 
dows, dry eyes making wearing 
contact lenses uncomfortable, etc., 
etc. Management maintains the vents 
have been "turned off." Messenger 
expresses reluctance to return to 
PG&E, even though he's been told his 
"nervous condition" is responsible 
for his fears. What's going on here? 

This place sells soft drinks to the 
Third World (it's a source of sterile 
water, I hear) and lots of other stuff 

like candy bars and carcinogens. I 
think you can understand my struggle 
with ethics. Is this an alternative to 
being a vent person (def.: derelict 
who finds a place on the sidewalk near 
or on an exhaust vent, esp. in winter)? 
Because that's how it looks to me. If 
I'm too squeamish or exquisite to 
swallow the corporate dose of cyni- 
cism, then what's left for me — the 
sheltering arms of the streets. But I 
digress, and there are miles of 
multiple copies before I sleep. 

*** * * 

Peasants of the global village unite! 
You have everything to lose if you lose 
cont'd, on page 36 

Levi Sirjusb & Co Two E"mbar< ,idco Center San Francisco California 94106 Phone 415 544-6000 

ya y s f 


FROM: The Management 

TO: All Employees 

DATE: March 10, 1982 


In order to assure that we retain technological leadership in 
the industry, it is our policy to keep all employees well 
trained. Through our Special High Intensity Training 
(S.H.I.T.) program, we are giving our employees more S.H.I.T. 
than any other company in the Bay Area. 

If you feel you do not receive your share of S.H.I.T. on the 
job, please see your supervisor or manager. You will be placed 
at the top of the S.H.I.T. list for special attention. All of 
our Department Heads, Managers, Supervisors, etc., are particu- 
larly qualified to see that you get all of the S.H.I.T. you can 
handle at your own speed. 

If you have any further questions, please contact the Head of 
Training, Special High Intensity Training (H.O.T. S.H.I.T.) . 





rai w rim 

war OTHER r 

P HW>fF y0£j>\ 


We'd like to show you how it's done. 

Yes, we'd like to show you how millions of 
hours of human life are taken up by the 
endless movement of useless information. 
Whether it's data center workers, file clerks, 
keypunch operators, or those employed in 
the construction and maintenance of office 
buildings, they are all "making a living" 
doing things that have no relationship to 
human well-being. If you would like to 
experience this emptiness first hand, just 
get a job in any Financial District. 

your senses. Break the hypnotic 
trance induced by hours of office 
drudgery. Look, listen, touch, taste, 
and smell. Thinking naturally follows. 
Start with something simple. 

For instance, buttons and button- 
holes. Ever noticed that the. more 
buttons on someone's clothes, the 
more power and influence, and the 
less socially useful the wearer? The 
six-button vest, three-button suit 
coat, six- or eight-button coat cuffs, 

button-down shirt collar equal a real 
heavyweight in the zona monetaria. 
Less obvious and much less frequent 
are the button fly of the $1200 + 
custom-made suit and the two-button 
shorts (underwear). 

In the fashion fascism game the 
scoring goes something like this: no 
points for zippered polyester jump 
suits (or aberrations like snap fasten- 
ers posing as buttons — a real button 
means a button hole or close approx- 



imation, preferably hand sewn); good 
points to old-style international dip- 
lomats, mostly for double-breasted 
coats and European handtailoring; 
good points, too, to high-ranking 
Mafia members; winning score for 
vestments, especially the Pope's 
(note number of buttons on chasuble, 
everything hand sewn in gold or silk 
thread — the tops). 

Question: If (against all odds) 
computer work stations do increase 
managerial productivity, will costume 
reflect this change in efficiency? The 
five-button vest is becoming more 
commonplace, probably due to cost- 
cutting by clothing manufacturers. 
However, the longstanding tradition 
of leaving the bottom buttonhole open 
is disappearing. Brooks Brothers still 
sells only six-button vests. Any other 

And more. 

The attack on the national language 
has not been accompanied by de- 
mands for the right to wear native 
costume. In fact this costume is 
swiftly abandoned as the push for bi- 
lingualism accelerates. The clothing 
adopted — double-knit pants, de- 
signer-branded knock-offs and plastic 
shoes — is that of the only socially 
useful class. Most striking is the 
unisexual character of this costume. 
Those of middle age in the American 
working class expressed the most 
outrage at the cross-sexual dressing 
of the hippies. However, this group is 
the only one that made the firm 
commitment to pastel double-knit 
leisure suits in the seventies and is 
now slouching towards five-button 
vests. Former and crypto-hippies 
have embraced the three-piece suit, 
Louis Vuitton, and dressing for suc- 

Which is impossible unless you're a 
hooker with an esoteric speciality. 
Vuitton and Jordache, like sex, are 
the great equalizers. Designer-initial- 
ized clothes do attract attention, but 
probably from muggers. How often is 

a secretary rewarded with envious 
looks of her inferiors or the approving 
ones of her superiors just because she 
wears Calvin Klein? And how impor- 
tant is a $90,000 sable coat if you can't 
have one in every color? 

At a conference of the Computer 
and Business Equipment Manufac- 
turers Association last fall, Xerox 
President David Kearns expressed 
impatience that after five years, 
"some of you are still wrestling with 
the question of whether a word 
processor is a typewriter or a com- 
puter." He dismisses this titanic 
struggle with the following: "I don't 
think it's an important question. It 
gets in the way of what really is 
important, which is that these ma- 
chines increase productivity dramat- 
ically." No wonder there's concern 
with declining productivity if five 
years is spent on such questions. Of 
course, Mr. Kearns isn't disinter- 
ested. Besides throwing kisses at the 
icon of productivity he's also a shill 
for the Xerox 8010, a "personal infor- 
mation" system aimed at the busi- 
ness professional. The target's "be- 
havioral problems" just go with the 
territory. The territory in this case is 
the market share an army of Willie 
Lomans is trying to capture. 

Nation's Business examines the 
imminent evolutionary technology in 
a special report (February 1982). The 
tone of this report is full of a peculiar 
attitude, a blend of single focus, 
inevitability, and unanswered ques- 
tions common to such publications. 
Reading it I wondered if its subscrib- 
ers might already be so tribalized that 
they practice voodoo or ritual .sacri- 
fice. A believer in santeria probably 
invokes the name of Chango less often 
than his free enterprise counterpart 
calls up the word productivity. 
The effect of this attitude is a hard sell 
behind a smile and a handshake. 



Managers, professionals, and execu- 
tives in this instance are interchange- 
able terms. However, vendors using 
their own definitions divide the 
market into four parts: "clericals, 
who work with numbers; secretaries, 
who work with words; professionals, 
who work with ideas; and execu- 
tives." Now we know what executives 

To help them do it better vendors 
are using the print medium in full- 
color and a catchy slogan, something 
about "just pushing a button." A 
similar slogan was aimed at women 
during the 1950s. Then the vendors 
were manufacturers of washing ma- 
chines, vacuum cleaners, air condi- 
tioners and other plug-in servants. 
Curiously, the most resistance to 
pushing buttons came from Southern 
women who maintained that if any 
finger pushed a button it would be a 
black finger. Executives do push 
buttons to summon secretaries and 
subordinates and to practice other 
forms of harassment. Nation's Busi- 
ness believes executive fingers push- 
ing the buttons of the future will mean 
a redistribution of workloads. 

In a particularly crass aside NB 
notes that "clericals who face change 
have little choice but to comply; 
managers can resist change — and 
often do." No examples of resistance 
were given, but I have no doubt there 
will be resistance. I am certain, too, 
that an entire subindustry is poised to 
spring forth. Led by a media blitz 
which has already rolled out, this 
industry will devote itself to the 
adjustment of managers to the new 
technology. There will be books and 
TV shows focused on executive alien- 
ation, seminars on technology-related 
managerial stress, discovery of un- 
known allergies, digital fatigue,' and 
assorted "needs." The personal 
computer, once an office companion, 
will be transformed into a tribble. 

But the hateful question "why 
don't you put it in writing?" won't 

disappear. I have sent many such 
written things straight to the shredder 
rather than to the oubliette of the 
files. The new technology threatens 
the form of the document but not the 
corporate hierarchy. The greatest 
benefit of executive work stations will 
be saving time, according to a 
Booz- Allen & Hamilton study. But 
what will be the total effect on the 
corporate structure when executives 
get the same information simultan- 
eously? A new dimension is intro- 
duced into the paper-shuffling ritual. 
What will disappear first is the 
fudged answer, "the report is being 
typed, reproduced, mailed." 

In the meantime I am able to 
remain a member of la boheme — the 
temporary work force. Until the 
necessary point of view develops that 
will force managers to push buttons I 
am the known value in the servility 
quotient, to bring in the multiple 
copies one at a time. I tremble at the 
thought of future chores as a result of 
redistributed workloads, and I know 
whose time will be saved and whose 
will be wasted. When the leaders talk 
of peace, Brecht wrote, you may be 
certain your draft notice is already in 
the mai l- 

Do you ever feel like saying 
something to the people at work, 
but don't know how to go about it? 
Well the folks at Processed World 
have an offer: we will help anyone 
who wants to create a leaflet for 
distribution (anonymously or not) 
at their workplace. We have 
typesetting, camera/darkroom, 
and printing facilities available, as 
well as sympathetic helpers. If 
you are interested, drop us a line 

at: Processed World 

55 Sutter St. #829 
San Francisco. CA 94104 



The little girl is sitting on her 
father's shoulders to get a better look 
at the crowd. She has never seen so 
many people in one place before. But 
she feels tired and restless, for night 
has long since descended on the city. 
Her mother whispers a few comfor- 
ting words to her and speaks re- 
proachfully to the father. You should 
have left the child with Mrs. Farkas, 
it's way past her bedtime. The father 
lifts the little girl off his shoulders and 
hugs her tightly. What, leave her 
behind on an evening like this, she'll 
remember it for the rest of her life, 
Magda, I know she will. The little girl 
catches sight of a drunk picking his 
way uncertainly through the crowd. 
Look Daddy, look at the funny man 
over there, he's going to fall down. 
The mother glances disapprovingly at 
the drunk who is clutching a half- 
empty bottle of brandy in one hand 
and a stack of newspapers in the 
other. Ignore him, darling, and 
maybe he won't notice us. Oh come 
now, Magda, he's just celebrating in 
his own harmless way. The drunk 
starts shouting at the top of his lungs. 
October 23, 1956! Remember that 

date, comrades! The eyes of all 
Hungary are on us! His rhetorical 
flourish brings on a fit of coughing, 
which he cures by taking a huge swig 
out of the bottle, much to the little 
girl's amusement. The drunk waggles 
his head up and down, rubs his belly, 
and politely offers his bottle to the 
father. Thanks a lot, brother, but you 
need it more than I do. Don't want 
any, eh? Well, here's to you and your 
lovely wife and child, the holy family. 
How about a paper, then? Not to read, 
of course, you roll it up like this, touch 
a match to it, and there you have it. 
He holds aloft the makeshift torch. 
The fires of truth consume the Party's 
lies and illuminate the obscurity of the 
night. Like that? I thought it up 
myself when I was over in Parliament 
Square this evening. Now, here I am 
at the Radio building, searching for 
more miracles. But you haven't heard 
the best part, comrades, some of the 
boys pulled down his statue, smashed 
it to bits, only the boots are left. 
Barely able to contain his excitement, 
the father sets the little girl down and 
fumbles in his pockets for some coins. 
Such good news is easily worth 



another bottle for you, comrade. The 
mother is smiling in spite of herself. I 
can't believe it, Ferenc, your dream's 
come true. The little girl is jubilant as 
she listens to her mother tell her that 
the statue she always hated is gone 
for good. Suddenly, the drunk 
crouches down and grasps the little 
girl by the shoulders. The mother 
moves to pull her child away, but her 
husband restrains her gently. He 
means no harm, Magda, don't worry. 
You stink, Mister. Yes, with good 
honest brandy. Do I scare you? No, I 
think you're funny. Well, even though 
I'm a lousy drunk, I'm here tonight 
for the same reasons your parents are 
— to give you a real world to grow up 
in. Never forget I told you that. He 
lurches to his feet and drains his 
bottle in one gulp. Thanks for your 
kindness comrades. Remember, Oct- 
ober 23, 1956! The drunk vanishes 
into the crowd as the father stares 
meditatively after him. Once that 
statue's gone, who knows where it 
will all end? 


It is now 9:00, and Anna, who sits 
four desks in front of me, hasn't come 
in yet. Often, she doesn't show up 
until 9:15. Today, on the way to the 
coffee room, I passed by her desk, 
where her CRT was flashing the 
indignant message it delivered to 
latecomers: 102381 STATION 557- 
85E NOT SIGNED ON 0830. The unit 
supervisor, Joe Grant, could obtain a 
complete record of Unit 12 's employ- 
ee attendance for the day simply by 
touching a few keys on his office 
terminal. No doubt it would be a 
matter of minutes before he stormed 
out of his glass-enclosed cubicle to 
ask his unresponsive employees 
where Anna Baron was this morning. 
Although I see Anna every day, I 
don't say much to her, aside from the 
usual indifferent hi-how're-you- 
doing's. But she has been in my 
thoughts ever since I started working 

here three weeks ago, when Grant 
told me, watch out for the good- 
looking gal four desks in front of you, 
she's real bad news, morale's gone 
down since she came aboard in April, 
I don't want to fire her because I 
believe in giving people a fair shake, 
which reminds me, I've got to be 
honest with you, this place is just the 
first rung up the ladder for kids like 
you, I know the work's not the most 
exciting in the world, but the com- 
pany depends on people like us, and 
you'll be sure to get promoted out of 
here in six months, if you do me 
favors, I'll do you favors, that's how I 
am, just cooperate, that's all I ask, not 
much, is it? 

So I can't tell Anna what I feel when 
I see her trudging to her desk each 
morning, when at 3:30 each afternoon 
she jumps up and dances around that 
desk, when she yells an epithet at the 
screen after making a mistake in her 
data entry. She entrances me, but I 
don't know why. Maybe it's the way 
she spins her swivel chair around: she 
holds on to the side of her desk, 
braces herself, and with a single push 
of her feet whirls like a dervish, 
sometimes letting go with a high- 
pitched whoop. Or maybe it's her 
habit of shadow-boxing with the 
cathode ray tube. "Pow, pow, pow," 
she grunts and pretends to put her 
clenched fist right through the screen. 
Much to my discomfort — and why 
should I feel that way? — I realize 
that Anna brings a breeze of life into 
this stale, windowless, confined of- 
fice. Even the older workers, who 
ordinarily would be shocked at her 
apparent lack of inhibition, seem to 
take her behavior in stride. Yester- 
day, a woman named Mattie was 
complaining of double vision, so Anna 
walked over to her desk and told her 
to go to the quiet room for a few 
minutes and lie down. Mattie was 
reluctant to do so because she was 
behind on her input-card quota and 
she dreaded hearing about it from 
Grant. "Just rest, Mattie, I'll take 



Budapest, 1956 

care of it." Then, to everyone's 
amazement, she sat down and started 
doing Mattie's work. When Mattie 
returned after half an hour, Anna 
asked her how she felt. "Much better 
now," the older woman murmured. 
' 'Good, ' ' smiled Anna, ' 'well, you can 
take it easy the rest of the afternoon, 
because I just finished your pile." 
Mattie looked ready to cry after 
hearing that, but Anna interrupted 
her broken words of thanks and said, 
"Hey, don't worry, Mattie, we're all 
in this together, aren't we?" 

I don't think I ever felt more lonely 
and isolated than at that moment. 
Anna was right, we were all in it 
together, but as far as I was 
concerned, my fellow workers were 
merely a random assortment of name 
plates, except for Anna. To me, she 
seemed to belong to another world 
entirely, where a single leap of the 
imagination was enough to bridge the 
distance between heaven and earth. I 
tried to dispel the pang in my chest by 
working faster than usual. When it 
was time to go home, my surroun- 

dings shimmered before my eyes as if 
I had stared too long into the sun; 
everything had turned into little 
yellow dots on a green field. I rode 
the bus home, got off, went upstairs, 
threw myself on my mattress and 
closed my eyes to make the dizziness 
go away, and suddenly, I was asleep. 


As the sounds of the crowd wash 
over her, the little girl shivers in the 
night-time cold and nestles closer to 
her father. The mother is feeling 
tense, because she dislikes being in 
situations she cannot control. Ferenc, 
answer me, what possible good does 
it do to remain here? We could just as 
easily go home and listen to the Prime 
Minister's speech on the radio. There 
are plenty of radios here already, 
Magda. But what about those cops 
over there, they've got guns, if 
they're provoked, they'll shoot, it's 
not worth it, let's go home. The father 
smiles bitterly. Do you honestly think 
I'm afraid of the cops? I make guns all 



There's a place for you in 
the New Information Order 

day at the factory, why should it 
surprise you that the police wind up 
with them? Go on home if you want, 
I'm staying here until the delegation 
gives its report. You'll feel pretty silly 
when you hear that our demands were 
granted and you weren't even around 
to share that moment with us. Ferenc, 
you're impossible. And you're a 
coward, Magda, all these years we've 
talked about getting rid of the thieves 
and murderers in the government, 
and now that it's finally happening, 
you want to run away and hide your 
head under the covers. The little girl, 
bored with her parents' quarreling, 
begins to sing a tune that her mother 
had taught her a few days before. A 
few people turn to look at her and clap 
their hands in encouragement. The 
father extends his arms towards his 
wife in a gesture of reconciliation, but 
she refuses to embrace him. Come on, 
Magda, at least look at our daughter, 
she's got the right idea, this is a day 
for singing, not for arguing. Please 
stay, dearest, what good is a moment 


like this if we can't live through it 
together? I'm sorry, Ferenc, you're 
right, I'm just nervous, but I'll get 
over it. The father puts his arms 
around his wife and both of them 
listen proudly to their daughter's 


The door behind me opens, and 
before I know it, Anna has rushed 
past me to her desk. After removing 
her coat and draping it over her chair, 
she stretches herself, glances ner- 
vously towards Grant's office, and 
signs on to the terminal. As if on cue, 
Joe Grant stamps out to yell at her, 
but he is brought up short when he 
sees that Anna is dressed more 
strikingly than her custom, in a black 
blouse and black pants, with a rose m 
her hair. Grant's voice soften into a 
peculiar unctuous croon. "Well, An- 
na, you're looking very nice today. 
What's the occasion?" 

Her shoulders stiffen. "Thanks, 


nothing special, just felt like changing 
the image today, you know." 

Realizing that his compliment has 
had no effect on her, Grant changes 
his attitude and mutters through 
clenched teeth, "Well, I didn't come 
out here to discuss fashion, Anna. 
Could you please come into my 

She tries to make a joke out of the 
situation by running her fingers 
coquettishly through her hair. "You 
can't trap me that easily, Mister 
Grant, I'm an honest woman." Grant 
blushes, and a ripple of laughter 
courses through the room at this 
incongruous sight. "Seriously, Mister 
Grant, I have nothing to hide. Why 
don't you say what you have to say 
right here and now, in front of 

Everyone in the office has stopped 
working and watches in intent expec- 
tation of a new topic of lunch-hour 
conversation. "Look, Anna, I've been 
telling you for two months straight, 
either come to work on time or don't 
come at all. We're running an office 
here, not a playpen. ' ' Infuriated at his 
condescension, Anna jumps up and 
walks straight over to him. "Mister 
Grant," she says with exaggerated 
politeness, "what counts is that my 
work's as accurate as it's always 
been, so with that in mind, I'd 
appreciate it if you got off my back, 
'cause believe me, I've got enough 
problems without you adding to 

With that, she turns on her heel 
and strides angrily out of the office. 
Grant is standing there open- 
mouthed, scratching his head. "O- 
kay, get back to work, everybody," he 
mumbles, "you've had your free 
entertainment for today." 

Before Grant can go back into his 
cubicle, the man who sits behind me 
decides to intervene. "Uh, Mister 
Grant, I know you probably couldn't 
care less about this, but for the past 
couple of months, Anna's had to raise 
her daughter all by herself. She takes 

the kid to school every morning and 
then rides clear across town to get to 
work. Nobody cares that she gets in 
late, except you, maybe you should 
ease up on her." 

A woman sitting across the room 
nods her head in agreement. "Yeah, 
Mister Grant, Anna's okay, we all like 
her, you don't help things by yelling 
at her. Can't you work something out 
with her? I've got an eight-year-old, 
I know how difficult it can be." 

Grant is astonished at such te- 
merity, the more so as everybody is 
saying yes, Mister Grant, Eddie's 
right. His business-like exterior 
crumbles briefly and he shouts at the 
man behind me, "You can't fool me, 
Thornton, I know you and your little 
friend Anna are trying to stir my 
people up against me. Don't think I 
don't know who stuck that leaflet up 
in the Johns a few days ago. Fight 
unfair work quotas, what a laugh. 
Well, I got news for all of you. I just 
got a memo from Davis saying that 
Unit 12 's going to have to increase its 
productivity by 10%, effective Nov- 
ember 1, the monthly stats aren't 
good enough, So you won't be able to 
goof off, come in late, or anything, 
I'm letting you know this ahead of 
time so you can be prepared." 

He slams his cubicle door. It is 
customary for such outbursts to be 
followed by the monotonous clacking 
of keyboards, but this time I hear the 
buzzing of human voices instead. 
How do you like that, a real live 
speed-up. They're crazy, it's all I can 
do to make my quota every day. All 
they care about is their goddam input 
cards. What about Grant, he's really 
got the rag on today, he oughta get 
his ass kicked. It's big enough for all 
of us to kick. 

At this last remark, I begin laugh- 
ing uncontrollably. The voices around 
me fall silent and someone taps me on 
the shoulder. It is the man who sits 
behind me, and since I've never said a 
word to him before, I wonder what he 
could possibly want. 



"Hey, 'scuse me, man, I couldn't 
help hearing you laugh. I never heard 
an Entry do that before, that's strictly 
an Exit trick. Entries don't laugh, you 
know, they're too busy working for 
their brighter tomorrows. Not me, I'm 
so bad off here I find everything 
funny. By way, my name's Eddie, 
how 're you doing?" He holds up a 
name plate to his chest and assumes 
the scowl of a convicted felon posing 
for a mug shot. I shake hands with 
him and tell him my name, and as an 
afterthought ask him what all of that 
entry-and-exit business meant. 

"It's like this. Grant introduced you 
the first day you came here. That 
means he's looking to you to play the 
game well so you can get a better 
position in another section. We call 
people like you Entries, 'cause the 
company doors are wide open for 
them. Me, I'm an Exit, nowhere to go 
but oh-you-tee, onto the pavement, 
with nothing but a personnel file full 
of disciplinary memos for them to 
remember me by. Unit 12 is the 
bottom of the dungheap, and Grant's 
the head beetle in it. And you 
probably know all that, but you'll 
never say anything. Entries don't like 
to talk, unless it's to other Entries, 
and they don't generally like to see 
anything, unless it's on a CRT." 

He has reminded me of the 
loneliness and misery I felt yesterday 
afternoon. "You're not being fair, 
what do you expect, I've only been 
here three weeks." 

"Three weeks, three days, three 
months — who cares? You got eyes, 
you got ears, why don't you use them 
so you don't miss the important 
things? At least you sure noticed 
Anna — every time she comes in 
here, I notice you looking at her 
funny. ' ' Before I can raise my hand in 
protest, he hurries on. "Look, I don't 
mean for you to feel stupid about that. 
Anna's got a way about her that 
people pick up on. I know how that is, 
'cause she's a friend of mine. We're 
trying to get a duet act together. She 

sings, I play the saxophone, and 
we're getting better every day. You 
gotta hear us do God Bless the Child, 
haven't heard anything like it since 
Lady Day. In all modesty. Hey look, I 
gotta take care of some of these cards, 
why don't we talk about this over 
lunch? Noon sound okay?" 

I don't like his arrogant attitude. 
My first instinct is to decline his 
invitation, but I am afraid of what he 
might say if I do. Besides, he could 
tell me more about Anna. After a 
minute of hesitation, I nod my head, 
adding sarcastically, "if your friends 
won't disown you when they see you 
having lunch with an Entry." 

Out of temper, I swivel my chair 
around to my desk, where the stack of 
input cards reminds me that I am 
much further behind in my work than 
usual. I remove the top card, check 
boxes 1 and 2 to make sure they are 
completely filled in, no abbreviations, 
reconcile the figures in boxes 3 
through 6, and transfer them to the 
appropriate locations on the screen. 
Anna has returned and is singing 
wordlessly to herself, tapping the side 
of her CRT with a pencil. I wonder 
whether people can be read like input 
cards. Lost in thought, I peer into the 
screen and see my face reflected on 
the eternal green field. 


The little girl no longer feels tired. 
Her mother is disturbed at the 
strange, wild glint in her daughter's 
eyes. You shouldn't get so excited, 
honey, it'll make you ill. The crowd's 
mood has changed since the Prime 
Minister's speech was broadcast, and 
all kinds of rumors are swirling 
through the air. The AVO's got its 
orders to fire on the crowd. They took 
the delegation down to the basement 
of the radio building and shot them. 
No, I heard that the delegates already 
gave their report and it didn't go over 
too well. There's talk of storming the 
building, do you hear up there, it 



sounds like they're smashing the 
windows already. Who does Gero 
think he's fooling, so we're counter- 
revolutionaries in the pay of inter- 
national fascism, what about this Nazi 
bullet I've still got in my leg, I'll ram 
it down that liar's throat. Let's go in 
there and burn the whole mess to the 
ground, we're all delegates here, 
aren't we? The father is shifting 
nervously from one foot to the other, 
craning his neck to see over the 
crowd. I have to find out what's 
happening, Magda, please wait here, 
I won't be more than a few minutes. 
Take me with you, Daddy. Are you 
sure about that, princess? Yes, I want 
to go with you. Please! Well, all right, 
darling, but you have to promise to 
behave yourself. No, Ferenc. What? I 
said no, you're not taking her, she's 
staying here with me, she could get 
killed, I shouldn't even let you go, but 
you're too stubborn. Mommy, I want 
to go with Daddy! No, is that clear, 
no! I gave in to you earlier, Ferenc, 
allow me this much and let the little 
one stay with me. All right, Magda, if 
you say so, I don't want to make a 
scene about it. The little girl has 
started to cry. As he turns to leave, 
the father remembers something and 
reaches into his coat pocket. Don't 
cry, darling, here's a little present 
because you've been so good tonight. 
He ceremoniously presents his 
daughter with a single rosebud. This 
flower has a story to tell you. It was 
born today. It is the spirit of all our 
friends here in the streets, of your 
mother and myself, and of you, of 

The Beginning of the End 

course. It hasn't blossomed yet, as 
you can see. But if you take care of it, 
tomorrow you will have your very own 
flower. When it fades, it will pass into 
your heart, where you will guard it 
closely. Nobody will be able to take it 
away from you, just as nobody will be 
able to take this day away from us, 
come what may. The little girl kisses 
her father, and the mother taps him 
playfully on the chest. Tell me now, 
what's a good-for-nothing munitions 
worker like you speaking so poetically 
for, you never talked that way when 
you were courting me. Strange things 
happen in strange times like these, 
my love, anyway, I promise I'll be 
right back. Be careful, Ferenc, I do 
love you, you know. And I love you, 
Magda. Could you do the little one a 
favor before I come back, give her 
nose a good wiping, snot doesn't go 
too well with roses. 


Before we leave for lunch, Eddie 
tells me that he needs to speak with 
Anna about something and would I 
mind meeting her? He is looking at 
me slyly and I pretend indifference, 
saying sure, go ahead. We walk over 
to her desk; she is staring dreamily off 
into space. Eddie tiptoes directly 
behind her and abruptly grabs her 
shoulders, growling in his best Joe 
Grant imitation, "Back to work, 
chump!" Startled, she emits a high- 
pitched yelp, and when she sees 
Eddie laughing silently at her, she 
snorts, "Asshole." The affectionate 



twinkle in her eyes belies the insult. 
"So what are you bugging me about 
now, Mister T? Boy trouble again? 
Take my advice, ditch the sucker and 
take a vow of chastity." 

Now it is Eddie's turn to be 
embarassed, much to my satisfaction. 
"Anna, speak a little louder so the 
whole building can hear about my 

"Huh, who around here doesn't 
know your business? Speaking of 
business, are we still on for our 
rehearsal this evening?" 

"We sure are. We can use the 
studio starting at 7, I checked with 
Lenvil and he said it's okay." 

"Listen, do you mind if I bring 
Magda there?" 

Eddie looks surprised. "Your 
daughter? Well, I don't know, Lenvil 
might freak out if he sees a little kid 
running around the studio, why can't 
you hire a sitter or something?" 

"Eddie, when I was Magda' s age 
my parents took me everywhere. I 
want to give my daughter that 
opportunity too. She's really good 
about not getting in the way, she 
loves to hear me sing, I'll be 
responsible for her if she creates 
problems, but I can guarantee you 
that she won't." 

"Well, okay I guess. Oh Anna," he 

adds, "I want to introduce you to one 

of your devoted admirers." She 

seems highly amused at my lack of 

ease, and exclaims with a touch of 

malice, ' 'Imagine an Entry wanting to 

meet me. At least I'm dressed for the 

occasion. I never forget a name-plate, 

you're the Keystroke Champion of the 

Week, aren't you? If I talk to you long 

enough, some of your efficiency might 

rub off on me, and Joe Grant wouldn't 

yell at me any more." She heaves a 

melodramatic sigh, but when she read 

the hurt on my face, she touches my 

hand gently, as if to make amends for 

her caustic words. "Sorry. I just find 

it hard to imagine that anyone here 

can go ahead and do their job as if 

they're blind to what's going on. 

Didn't you read the leaflet that came 
out?" I tell her I did. "Well, take it 
seriously, then, 'cause that's what 
we're all up against. Why is it that 
when people have their own little 
worlds, they're in such a hurry to lock 
themselves up in them and throw 
away the key?" She blithely changes 
the subject before I can answer her. 
"Well, if you guys can hold on for a 
second, I'll escort you to the hallway. 
Nature calls." 

She opens her desk drawer and 
takes out her purse. Striking a his- 
trionic pose before the CRT, she 
brandishes her purse ferociously and 
screeches, "Insult a lady, would you? 
Take that, you beast!" The purse 
crashes against the top of the CRT, 
and with a hearty laugh, Anna grabs 
Eddie's arm and propels him out the 

The sight of them hugging each 
other when I catch up with them in the 
hallway makes me feel out of place. 
Nevertheless, I try to make small talk 
by asking Anna where she comes 
from. "I was born in Hungary, my 
real name is Barontzay, but when my 
mother and I came to this country, we 
shortened it to Baron so the Ameri- 
cans wouldn't throw fits trying to 
pronounce or spell it." 

"Was that a long time ago?" 
"A while back," she responds 
curtly. For the first time, I look 
directly at her: curly shoulder-length 
brown hair, green eyes, small stature, 
but also a presence that breathes 
intensity. She doesn't occupy space so 
much as grasp it firmly. She conjures 
up a vision of something distant and 
remote; strange that someone with 
such earthy allure should evoke such 
misty associations. I interrupt my 
train of thought by blurting out, 
"Today's an important day for you, 


Her head jerks back slightly. 
"What do you mean by that?" 

"Oh... uh... I saw something in 
today's paper that said it was the 25th 
anniversary of the Hungarian Revo- 



lution." Her hand caresses her face 
aimlessly, nervously. "So it's... an 
important day, not just for you, but 
for your country." My voice trails off 
when I see that she is not listening to 
me. Her gaze seems fixed somewhere 
on the ceiling, but she pulls herself 
together and says, "Yeah, an impor- 
tant day. Well, see you guys later, I'm 
off to the library." 

While we are riding down to the 
cafeteria, Eddie asks me what all that 
was about. I tell him it has something 
to do with a dream, and he nods his 
head. "Strange things, dreams. But 
what would we do without them?" 

"I don't know." For some reason, I 
am feeling euphoric. ' 'I guess we'd all 
become Entries, or something." 

"Ain't it the truth." Then, to the 
astonishment of the other elevator 
passengers, we look at each other and 
start laughing uproariously. 


The little girl is plotting the best 
way to distract her mother's attention 
so that she can dash into the crowd 
and look for her father. But she sees 
that her mother is daydreaming, so 
she figures that perhaps it would be 
best to tiptoe away quietly. Daddy will 
laugh so much when he hears what I 
did. While the little girl counts to ten 
under her breath, the mother worries 
about how late it is, why hasn't 
Ferenc come back, if they shoot, the 
dream's over, nothing, no matter how 
beautiful, is worth the loss of a human 
life. Eight, nine, ten, catch me if you 

can, the crowd surges forward and the 
little girl vanishes. The mother almost 
loses her balance in the crush and she 
reaches out instinctively for her 
daughter, only to realize that the little 
girl is gone. She plunges into the 
crowd, frantically calling her daugh- 
ter's name, and almost immediately 
she stumbles upon a young man 
holding a shrieking child in his arms. 
Thank God you're safe. So this is your 
daughter, eh? What a pair of lungs 
she's got, so young and already a 
menace to the state. It's a good thing I 
saw her when I did, she could have 
been trampled. Thank you so much, 
comrade, and God bless you. The 
mother is too relieved to punish her 
daughter. I don't know what's gotten 
into you today, you're not like this 
usually, now stop squalling and stay 
close beside me. The little girl feels 
another scream welling up in her. She 
takes a deep breath — and then the 
loud crackle of machine-gun fire 

resounds from the radio building, 
jagged beams of light punctuate the 
darkness, an electric shock zigzags 
through the crowd, and suddenly 
everyone is running, colliding, tram- 
pling, screaming, bastards, they're 
slaughtering us, kill the cops. The 
little girl clutches at her mother's 
coat, trembling with fear. Magda, 
Magda! The mother hears her name 
being called. I'm over here! Here! 
Who is it? Then she sees her next- 
door neighbor staggering towards 
them, blood dripping from his leg. 
Magda, get out of here, both of you, 



don't ask questions, just get out. 
Have you gone crazy, Janos, I can't 
leave without Ferenc, he said he'd be 
back any minute. Janos is swaying 
uncertainly, his face a bloodless 
mask, the words pouring out of him 
with the speed of delirium. Magda, 
listen to me, Ferenc 's been shot, one 
of those AVO bastards did it, he was 
two feet away from me, it took him 
forever to fall, I can't forget the look 

How to Survive in Business 
Without Really Crying 

Monday morning I get out of bed, 
Take a shower and put on my head. 
Once I've done that, I put on my face. 
I'm getting ready for life in today 's 

My office, you know, is a civilized place 

And, if I must go there, I'll do so with 


Not like a prisoner, rattling my cage, 

Not like a savage, shaking with rage. 

It all goes so well when I start the day 


I can keep it together 'till I go home at 


How long can I go without falling apart? 

Or getting a blood-clot lodged in my 


Asking such questions makes me shaky 


So, having paid for my ticket, let me just 

take my ride. 

I really do love it, so I'll try to relax 

And always remember to cover my 


That 's a part of my life that the world 

must not see. 

It will only accept a respectable me. 

Fran Now 

in his eyes, I've got to get to the 
factory, tell the boys on the nightshift, 
we disarmed the guards, but we need 
more weapons to deal with the rest. 
For God's sake, Magda, leave this 
place before they kill you too. The 
mother is rooted to the ground and 
her lips move inaudibly, perhaps in 
prayer, perhaps in a curse. The little 
girl feels the sudden rigidity of her 
mother's body and confusedly won- 
ders if it has something to do with 
Daddy, and if Uncle Janos is to blame 
for it. She marches up to the wounded 
man, who is leaning on her mother's 
shoulder, and tries to push him away. 
I hate you! What did you do to my 
daddy! I want my daddy! Where is 
he? With frightful speed, the mo- 
ther's hand shoots from her side and 
strikes the little girl a violent blow in 
the face. How dare you say that, you 
little brat! Magda, for God's sake, the 
child doesn't know what's going on. 
All right then, Janos, I'll tell her 
myself. Your father's dead. And those 
pigs killed him. Do you understand? 
Or do I have to hit you again to get it 
through your head? The little girl has 
started to run, her ears ringing from 
the shock and pain of the blow, her 
heart breaking from the horrible tone 
of her mother's voice, she trips, falls, 
and her mother snatches her up, 
sobbing desperately. I don't want 
them to kill you too, my little darling, 
you're all I have left, I love you so 
much, I was crazy, my poor love, 
forgive me, Ferenc. The mother is 
weeping now, and as the hot tears fall 
on her head, the little girl grips the 
flower that her father gave her until 
the thorn pierces her finger and drops 
of blood stain the pavement. 


Eddie and I are strolling down the 
hallway towards the office, unper- 
turbed at our 90-minute lunch break 
and even less concerned about incur- 
ring Joe Grant's wrath. But when we 
finally throw open the door, we glance 



cautiously at Grant's cubicle to see if 
he has spotted us. To our surprise, 
Anna is in there talking to Grant. Her 
irate expression and violent gestures 
tell us that the two of them are 
arguing about something. Suddenly, 
the cubicle door flies open and bangs 
against the wall, causing the flimsy 
construction to vibrate, and Anna 
storms out, shouting that she was 
leaving no matter what Grant said, 
because her daughter needed her. 
She rushes over to her desk to grab 

weakness. "Her teacher said she had 
a nightmare during nap period, she 
woke up screaming 'They killed him, 
they killed him,' she's running a 
fever, the teacher sounded so wor- 
ried, but this bastard wouldn't care if 
she died." 

Grant is probably wishing that 
Anna were a fly so that he could 
carelessly brush her away and have 
done with her. "Miss Baron, I'm sure 
your kid's got nothing serious — 
nothing that the school nurse can't 

her purse, but Grant is right behind 
her to bark in his best parade-ground 
manner, "Take one step out that 
door, Anna, and you're fired." 

Stupefied, Anna freezes in her 
tracks and retreats to her desk. Grant, 
eagerly pressing his advantage, 
spreads his arms and addresses the 
office, "You can see for yourselves 
how much trouble this gal causes. 
And I've about had all I can take from 
her. No matter how patient I am, she 
insults me and tries to turn my troops 
against me. Now, when she comes 
and asks me for a favor, I tell her no, 
and can you blame me? I got rights, 
too, Miss Baron. If you tried to see 
things my way for once, you'd 
understand. As far as I'm concerned, 
the matter's closed." 

Anna is keeping her head lowered 
so she doesn't have to look at Grant, 
and exclaims in a barely audible hiss, 
"My daughter's sick, and that ass- 
hole won't let me go to see her, even 
though he heard her crying over the 
phone." Her voice quavers, but she 
is determined not to show any 

handle, anyway. You can do what you 
want after five, but until then, you've 
got a job to do." 

He slams shut his cubicle door and 
sits down at his desk with his back to 
us. A silence follows that would be 
deafening were it not for the incessant 
humming of the computer equipment. 
Anna is rummaging aimlessly 
through her desk as if in a trance, 
muttering something that sounds like 
"It had to be today." For lack of 
anything better to do, everyone 
gradually returns to work, and the 
fugal build-up of keyboard sound 
galvanizes Anna into action. She 
grabs her coat and purse and walks 
over to Eddie. "Listen, babe, I made 
up my mind, I'm gonna call his bluff. 
Maybe he won't know I'm gone, I've 
just got to see Magda, there's a lot I 
have to tell her, I know why she feels 
the way she does." 

Eddie is tense and worried. "Anna, 
he's bound to notice it if you leave. 
He's gonna fire you, I don't think he's 
bullshitting, he wants any excuse to get 
rid of the troublemakers in this unit so 



that when these quotas go into effect, 
everyone here '11 be too scared to fight 
them." "Eddie, I don't care if he 
fires me. Do you want to know why?" 
There is a note of urgency in her 
voice. "'Cause I trust you to do the 
right thing if he does. All this time 
we've talked about what to do if Grant 
puts the screws on, and now that it's 
happening, we have to think in terms 
of miracles. Today especially." She 
turns to me when she notices that I 
am listening attentively. "Earlier, 
you said today was an important day 
for me, but you couldn't have known 
how important it really was. You see, 
I was in Budapest when the revolution 
began, outside the radio building with 
my parents. My father was killed when 
the security police fired into the 
crowd. I never told anyone about this, 
I kept it a secret all my life. I was only 
five when it happened, and it hurt me 
very much." She passes her hand 
over her eyes. "That's why Magda's 
sick, it's her way of telling me that 
she knows about the grief I've been 
carrying inside me all these years, she 
must have second sight, intuition, 
whatever, this morning she asked me, 
mommy, why is that rose in your hair, 
and I couldn't say that it was how I 
wanted to remember my father and 
the dream he died for. I don't know 
why I'm going on like this, I must be 
more upset than I thought." 

don't know what's coming up, but I'll 
do my best when it does." 

Anna checks Grant's cubicle to 
make sure that his back is still turned, 
takes a deep breath, and says, "It's 
now or never. Too bad it had to turn 
out this way, but it's wonderful to 
have your support. With people like 
you around, I'm beginning to think 
maybe my father's dreams weren't so 
crazy after all. Please call me later on, 
Eddie, and tell me what happened." 

"Don't worry," I say, "the main 
thing is that you have a right to see 
your daughter because it's an emer- 
gency, and Grant can't stop you, he'll 
have to fire all of us." 

"Well, people are the least of his 
worries, he might just do that. I really 
gotta go, bye, and thanks a lot, 

She is gone, but the scent of her 
rose lingers in the air as if to remind 
us that even in this office, marvelous 
things can happen. My chest con- 
tracts and my hands start to tremble, 
whether from excitement or fear I am 
not sure. Grant hasn't budged for 
almost half an hour, maybe he won't 
turn around for the rest of the day. 
But with three hours left, he'll be sure 
to think of something to tell his 
employees sooner or later. Here it 
comes, he's swiveling his chair a- 
round, he's stunned when he spots 
Anna's empty desk and realizes that 

"How about going on strike?" I decide to be 
bold; how else can miracles happen? 

Eddie reaches forward and tenderly 
grasps Anna's hand. "Go and see 
your daughter, Anna. If Grant fires 
you, there's a good chance nobody 
here will put up with it. A lot of folks 
here care for you, you should have 
heard them this morning, they de- 
fended you in front of Grant, we have 
to count on that happening again. It's 
like when we improvise together, I 

she actually disobeyed him, he's in 
such hurry to get up that he bangs his 
knee on the desk, but he hobbles out 
nonetheless, and instead of launching 
into a tirade, he merely says, "So she 
left after all, well, she made her 
choice, now I'm gonna make mine." 
He re-enters his cubicle, and taking 
care to rub his bruised knee tenderly, 
he puts his feet on the desk and picks 



EVEWot*£ WAS &rr\ 
Goes* ruLseuT 


t bff\Ct W.«.WE 

up the telephone. He must be telling 
Personnel to prepare Anna's dismis- 
sal papers. Everyone in the office is 
watching him closely. He hangs up 
the receiver and moves his chair over 
to the file cabinet, from which he 
extracts a manila folder, Anna's 
personnel record, no doubt. He's 
really going through with it, he 
doesn't seem to care, it's all in a day's 
work for him, so it's pointless to be 
surprised or shocked when once 
again, he limps out of his cubicle to 
announce off-handedly that he's got 
some business to take care of in 
Personnel, troops, and he'll return in 
half an hour. 

But all hell breaks loose once the 
door has safely closed behind him, 
and now I understand that my fellow 
workers needed Anna's presence as 
much as I did. Poor Anna, this place 
won't be the same without her, she 
always helped me with my work, 
Grant was threatened by her, he hates 
women, he'd be happier if we were all 
robots, I can't believe he actually 
fired her, where 's the justice, it could 
be any one of us, nobody here likes 
working for him, what can we do? 

With the shrewdness of a born 
agitator, Eddie seizes his opportunity 
and leaps on top of his desk. "I just 
heard the $64,000 question, what can 
we do? Well, we all know what we're 
up against, don't we?" He points an 
imaginary microphone at the others 
and assumes the satin-smooth de- 
meanor of a talk-show host. "Come 

on, ladies and gentlemen, surely you 
can tell me. Just pretend it's lunch- 
time and you're all sitting around 
bad-mouthing this place like you 
always do. " Mattie decides to join the 
game first and, in a voice of 
world-weary conviction that arouses 
sympathetic laughter in a few of the 
younger people, sighs, "Too many 
damn cards to process." Someone 
else stands up and says, "We get 
paid an average $700 a month to bust 
our asses, that's bullshit." Eddie 
covers his ears in mock embarass- 
ment, "Well Mister Howe, you got 
your point across, that's for sure. 
Let's hear a little more of that rough 
kind of talk." 

Soon, infected by Eddie's playful 
mood, everybody starts trying to 
outdo each other's complaints, no 
windows, stale air, double vision, 
migraine headaches all the time, no 
telephones, no freedom of speech, no 
justice, until Eddie waves his arms for 

"Thank you so much, it's not often 
I encounter such a wonderful audi- 
ence, I love you all. But one thing's 
bugging me. You all been sitting on 
these gripes for so long you haven't 
figured out what we can do about 

"How about going on strike?" I 
decide to be bold; how else can 
miracles happen? 

"You all heard the man, sounded 
like he said the magic word, s-t-r-i-k-e. 
But it ain't magic unless we all want 







of the "information we do «s useful only o j ^ 

the existing order. We are *'<* * *' s ^ and tell us about 

wasteful, boring work If you are up in £rms, wn e Processed 

your situation. If you have any ideas ab ^ p ^' cs / | n a ° "number of office 
World is an open forum for your .deas to reach a large num^^ ^^ 

workers. Write to: 55 Sutter st #829 

San Francisco. CA 94104 

Anna is sitting on the steps of the 
plaza and watching her daughter, lhe 
little girl is shouting strike, strike 
amidst the laughter and applause ot 
the small group of picketers blocking 
the building entrance. Although our 
leaflets have been very well received, 
with many people taking piles o 
copies into the building to distribute, 1 
am getting bored with handing , them 
out and with the litany of hi-Umt-12 s- 

thank-you. So I give my leaflets to 
somebody else on the lme and watt 
over to Anna. Even after a weekend Lot 
strike meetings, I still feel somewhat 
awkward around her, and her distant, 
preoccupied greeting does nothing to 
dispel this feeling. But when I notice 
how pale and drawn she is, 1 say w 

to make it real." 

"I agree," one of the younger men 
says, "if Anna can't work here, 
nobody should work here." 

"Nobody should work here, period, 
I wouldn't wish this place on a dog." 

Eddie bursts out laughing. "Mister 
Howe's hit it on the nose. Why should 
anyone work here? That's the kind of 
question we have to ask. And if we 
haven't all left our imaginations 
inside those CRT's we might even 
come up with some good answers. 
I've said all I have to say, ladies and 
gentlemen. We haven't got much 
time before Grant gets back, so let's 
start planning a nice surprise for 





myself, of course, she's been under a 
lot of strain recently, what with 
everything happening so fast. I sit 
down beside her and try to draw her 
into conversation by complimenting 
her on her daughter and how nice it 
was to have her with us today. 

"Yeah, Magda's something else, 
it's scary how much alike we are. 
She's just the way I was at her age. 
She loves being the center of atten- 
tion, and she'll do all she can to stay 
there, even if it means yelling herself 
hoarse. Speaking of Magda, I heard 
from her father this morning." 

"Oh really?" This is the first time 
Anna has mentioned her ex-husband, 
as far as I can tell. 

"Uh-huh, he heard about the strike 
on the radio, so he called to wish me 
good luck but to keep Magda out of 
trouble, he knows I'd take her 
anywhere. So I told him thanks for the 
good wishes and he can have her next 
weekend. He's a nice guy, but he 
doesn't understand a lot of things, 
he's too wrapped up in his job, that's 
why we split up." 

I change the subject. "So he heard 
about us on the radio, wonder how the 
news got out." 

Anna gestures towards Eddie, who 
is standing off to the side of the picket 
line and playing a lively tune on his 
saxophone. "You can thank Take- 
Charge Eddie over there, he's in his 
element with this strike." I ask her 
what that element might be. "The 
spotlight, of course. Whenever we 
play duets, I'm constantly reminding 
him that we're partners and he can't 
always be out front. Somebody here 
has to tell him that, otherwise he'll 
want everything to go his way. Sorry 
if I'm bumming you out or anything, 
I'm really tired today, I can't get up 
the right amount of righteous fervor, 
there's too much on my mind." 

I can tell that Anna wants to be left 
alone with her thoughts, but just as I 
am getting up to return to the picket 
line, I hear someone calling her name. 
A friend of hers who works in one of 

the other units is running towards us, 
and Anna brightens up immediately 
when she sees her. I feel superfluous, 
but since I don't want to go back and 
hand out leaflets, I hover around them 
to find out if Daria is bringing any 
important news. 

"Hey Daria, I've been waiting for 
you to call me like you said you 

"I didn't try this weekend 'cause I 
knew you were busy stirring up 
trouble. I love what you guys are 
doing, imagine, Unit 12 on strike, 
Grant's a candidate for heart failure, 
you should see him, it's fantastic." 

Anna smiles ironically at her friend. 
"Well if you really think so, maybe 
you should get a sympathy strike 
going in your unit, things can't be 
that much better there." 

Daria looks at the ground, shuffling 
her feet back and forth. "It's not the 
same where we are, Billings is an 
okay boss. Anyway, we're all behind 
you, we read your leaflet. Besides," 
she adds, her voice gaining as- 
surance, "if it weren't for me, you 
wouldn't know that the Unit 12 
temporaries are all ready to quit, I 
talked to one of them a few minutes 
ago, he's going crazy trying to figure 
out the work, everything's a total 
mess." Daria glances around as if 
afraid to be overheard. "Incidentally, 
Anna, I heard that about 2,000 input 
cards have disappeared from Unit 12, 
is it true?" 

"All I can say is, I wasn't there at 
the time they decided to go on strike, 
so you'll have to ask someone else, 
not that you'll ever find out. But we 
aren't playing games with this strike, 
that's for sure." 

"You don't have to take that tone 
with me, Anna, I came to help you, 
not spy on you. I'm here because I 
just found out from Davis' secretary 
that the company's going to use 
trespassing laws to keep you folks 
away from the building. I wanted to 
warn all of you that you might have the 
cops on your hands any minute. 



Y' know, since you ve 
been around I've felt 

more like a man than 
ever before 

f<J. B <>bf 


s °h u y ° u 


' rt >*n7 n >*a e 



the interface 

with electronic 




Anna, are you alright?" For Anna 
appears ready to faint, and only 
Daria's embrace prevents her from 
collapsing to the pavement. "Anna, 
it's so unlike you to be afraid, what's 

Anna's words emerge with great 
effort. "It can't happen like this 
again... not the police... they'll kill 
us." She clutches Daria and gazes 
fixedly at her. "Please Daria, help 
me, help my little girl, you know 
where I live, take her home, Mary 
Anne in Number 8 will look out for 
her, I don't want anything to happen 
to her, not the way it happened to me, 
she's just like me, I'm so frightened 
for her." 

Daria is astounded. "Sure, I guess. 
...I'll think up an excuse for leaving 
work... alright, I'll drive her home. 
But I don't understand, the cops 
won't kill you, they'll just ask you to 

I pull Daria aside and whisper to 
her that Anna's been through a lot 
lately, and maybe it would be best for 
us to tell the others about the police's 
imminent arrival while Anna went to 
get Magda. Daria nods understan- 
ding^ and we both hurry over to the 
picket line. The news produces its 
expected effect on my fellow strikers, 
but for some reason I cannot concen- 
trate on the heated discussion that 
follows. Instead, I look across the 
plaza and see Anna and Magda sitting 
next to each other on the steps, 
talking animatedly. 

It is clear from the way Magda is 
behaving that she is reluctant to 
leave, no matter how reasonably her 
mother speaks to her; she is shaking 
her head vigorously and refuses to 
look directly at Anna, who loses 
patience and yanks her daughter to 
her feet. At this Magda goes limp. 
Nothing daunted, ' her mother pro- 
ceeds to drag her across the plaza, 
and the little girl starts shrieking with 
rage. You're hurting me, Mommy, let 
go, I hate you. Anna wheels around 

violently and for a moment it looks 
like she is going to hit the little girl, 
but she restrains herself and, to my 
surprise and relief, lifts her daughter 
into her arms and hugs her tightly. 
After whispering a few soothing 
words into Magda 's ear, Anna sets 
her gently on the ground, wipes her 
face, and takes hold of her hand. 
Magda is smiling now, and Anna 
looks as if a great weight has been 
lifted from her shoulders. 

"Until you've met my daughter, 
you don't know what stubborn 
means," says Anna when she reaches 
the picket line. "Her grandfather 
would have loved her, what else can I 
do but let her stay here with us? 
Thanks, Daria, I guess you're off the 
hook now. You guys decide what to do 
about the cops?" 

"Nobody can agree on anything, so 
we'll just wait and see what hap- 
pens," Eddie says, and at that 
moment the shriek of a police siren 
cuts through the noise of the down- 
town traffic. Two paddy wagons 
careen onto the sidewalk, disgorging 
thirty patrolmen in riot gear, one of 
whom is carrying a bullhorn. "Hey, 
Eddie," somebody says, "how about 
giving the men in blue a tune to 
brighten up their day." Eddie snorts 
contemptuously, but when he sees 
Anna and Magda talking quietly to 
each other, he puts his horn to his lips 
and begins to play a long, elegiac 
melody, aching with loss at first but 
gradually brightening towards a 
hopeful mood. Anna's face clouds 
over as she recognizes the tune and 
suddenly she begins to sing in a low 
passionate voice, Mama may have, 
Papa may have, but God bless the 
child who's got his own, and all I can 
hear is her song, there is nothing else 
in the world, not even the crackling 
mechanical sound of the police ser- 
geant reading the dispersal order. 

— By Christopher Winks 







Basic Principles of Resistance 
(Bulletin #8 - Solidarity) 

The following is some practical 
advice for workers in any job or 
country. It was published under- 
ground by the Warsaw chapter of 
Solidarity, dated December 30, 1981. 

1. During a strike or other form of 
protest, stay with your colleagues. 

2. Do not establish Strike Commit- 
tees. Protect your leaders and or- 
ganizers. Basic principle of action: 
the entire crew goes on strike — 
there are no leaders. 

3. In contacts with the police or the 
military you are uninformed, you 
know nothing, you have heard 

4. Do not denounce ordinary people. 
Your enemies are: the policeman, 
the eager conformist, the informer. 

5. Work slowly; complain about the 
mess and incompetence of your 
supervisors. Shove all decisions, 
even the most minor, into the lap of 
commissars and informers. Flood 
them with questions and doubts. 
Don't do their thinking for them. 
Pretend you are a moron. Do not 
anticipate the decisions of com- 
missars and informers with a 
servile attitude. They should do all 
the dirty work themselves. In this 
way you create a void around them, 

and by flooding them with the most 
trivial matters you will cause the 
military-police apparatus to come 
apart at the seams. 

6. Eagerly carry out even the most 
idiotic orders. Do not solve prob- 
lems on your own. Throw that task 
onto the shoulders of commissars 
and informers. Ridiculous rules are 
your allies. Always remember to 
help your friends and neighbors 
regardless of the martial law rules. 

7. If you are instructed to break 
mutually contradictory rules, de- 
mand written orders. Complain. 
Try to prolong such games as long 
as possible. Sooner or later the 
commissar will want to be left in 
peace. This will mark the begin- 
ning of the end of the dictatorship. 

8. As often as possible take sick leave 
to care for an "ill" child. 

9. Shun the company of informers, 
conformists and their ilk. 

10. Take active part in the campaign 
to counter official propaganda, 
spreading information about the 
situation in the country and 
examples of resistance. 

11. Paint slogans, hang posters on 
walls and distribute leaflets. Pass 
on independent publications — 
but be cautious. 

Reprinted from the Bay Area Solidarity Support Campaign Bulletin, 
March 1982, No. 1; 55 Sutter St. #832, San Francisco, CA 94104 



SF Supes Bolster Sagging City Worker Unions 

In early February, the San Fran- 
cisco Board of Supervisors voted in 
"agency shop" representation for city 
workers. Many clerical workers, li- 
brarians, social workers and pharma- 
cists resented the imposition of 
agency shop and collected signatures 
from 30 % of their co-workers so they 
could vote on the issue. In a 
February 26th vote, city clerical 
workers agreed to this representation 
with 1203 voting for it and 1076 

"Agency shop" basically means 
that "as a condition of employment" 
you must pay money to the union. You 
need not formally join the union, but 
you must pay a monthly "service fee" 
of $11 to $13. The "service fee" is a 

euphemism for compulsory union 
dues checkoff, which has traditionally 
been relied upon by union bureau- 
cracies that cannot get workers to sign 
up voluntarily. Through the guaran- 
teed income provided by automatic 
dues, the bureaucrats become direct 
beneficiaries of the wage-labor setup. 
In return, these "experts" provide 
the "services" of collective bargain- 
ing and grievance processing to their 
"clients," who are encouraged to let 
the union handle all their working 
problems. Prior to the ratification 
election, we visited City Hall to talk 
with some city workers. Although 
nearly everyone we spoke to favored 
the idea of union representation, 
"Nobody likes the way the decision 





was imposed," said an already union- 
ized keypunch operator. 

A few years ago SEIU 400 sent an 
organizer around to get her to join the 
union, the first union representative 
she had met in three years. She told 
him, "I'd already belong if it was a 
good union." 

In her opinion — one we often 
heard repeated — SEIU 400 "doesn't 
do anything for us." She explained 
how the union had been in labor 
conciliation "court" three years ago 
to fight for 12 month retroactive wage 
increases that the City had im- 
pounded in a cost-cutting move. Local 
400 lawyers immediately agreed to 
accept only seven months back pay, 
making no attempt to secure the 
additional five. As for the union's 
claims about successful collective 
bargaining, she scoffed: "What did 
they get us last year? 2%? And the 
cost of living increased how much? 

A unionized librarian had mixed 
feelings. He could understand why 
the union wanted the money, but he 
could also understand people's resis- 
tance to being "shanghaied." 

One clerk who was in favor of 
agency shop was asked how her 
co-workers felt. "They don't want it 
now; nobody wants anything in the 
beginning; they don't want to pay the 
money." Hired through CETA over a 
year earlier, she wasn't a union 
member but planned to join. She 
knew nothing concrete about what the 
union had done for workers in the 

Most likely, SF supervisors have 
passed this agency shop ruling as a 
political favor to union leaders. But it 
also demonstrates the City govern- 
ment's interest as an employer in 
workforce stability. SEIU 400, the local 
that stands to gain the most, has a 
long record of being in cahoots with 
governmental employers (see "No 
Paid Officials" in this issue for more 
on SEIU 400's history). 

The agency shop agreement is 

actually aimed at strengthening weak, 
unpopular unions. For the time 
being, it may succeed. Meanwhile, 
though, city employees will continue 
to meet with each other around the 
concession stands, water coolers, and 
lunch tables, trying to figure out how 
to protect the limited freedom they 
have — and, perhaps, how to extend 
it beyond the limits enforced by union 
bureaucrats, managers and politi- 


Frankfurt, West Germany — 

A judge dismissed charges of 
malicious damage against an insur- 
ance company bookkeeper who at- 
tacked his VDT with a chair, and then 
set it on fire. The dismissal came after 
the bookkeeper explained his patience 
had been exhausted when the system 
went on the blink for the 5th time in as 
many hours. The judge noted that the 
bookkeeper regularly had been forced 
to work long hours of overtime to 
catch up on work that was delayed by 

system failures. 

- 1/29/82 

AFL-CIO Newspaper Guild Reporter 


LOUIS fviiCxAfcLSoN 



Confidence Crisis For Middle Management 

Every office worker knows how 
utterly useless "middle manage- 
ment ' ' personnel can be, even within 
the general uselessness of office 
work. Now, perhaps goaded by the 
threat of automation, they themselves 
have begun to worry about it. The 
following is quoted from a keynote 
speech given at a company -wide 
meeting for Directors of Administra- 
tion and Personnel. The context 
seems to be that many office mana- 
gers at Arthur Andersen have been 
treated as less important because 
they are responsible for office support 
rather than the more "glamorous" 
management field work... Emphasis 
is ours. 

"... top management recognizes 
that there is a 'class' distinction 

First, we must recognize and 
become totally convinced that admin- 
istration of office operations and per- 
sonnel is indeed a profession. We 
must acknowledge to ourselves the 
worthiness of our work, before we can 
proceed any further. For many of us 
that is a difficult step to take. We 
desperately want to believe it... 

... So we, as a group, must recog- 
nize and become totally convinced 
that administration is a profession in 
and of itself. We must recognize that 
this profession is integral to the 
process of management. We do 
provide meaningful service. Dr. Mor- 
rison will help us in making that 

... among the suggested issues [for 
discussion this afternoon] are several 
points that will help to generate 
additional thought about who we are, 
what we do, and the appropriate roles 
for us in our offices... 

... Dr. Morrison will also be pre- 
paring you for the task of winning 
recognition of your role. Tomorrow, 
he will be discussing the area of 
"psychological contracts." And Fri- 
day he will discuss "building your 
own support." And Herb Cohen will 
conclude the meeting by discussing 
your personal power — how to find it 
and how to use it effectively. 

I want you to know that we have not 
gone to this expense and effort to 
simply make you feel good about 
yourselves... I believe the investment 
this firm is making in you to be well 
worth the ultimate cost. Because I 






believe that the administration of 
office and personal resources is very 
much a part of our total client service 
effort. But the investment you make 
in yourselves will generate the great- 
est return for both you and the firm. 
(Emphasis in original) 

... Historically, the firm has tended 
to equate the concept of "support" 
with the concept of "subordinate." It 
did not recognize the mutual depen- 
dence involved. It imposed a false and 
unrealistic segregation between two 
groups of people... 

... We have established the policy 
that the partnership door is indeed 
open to people in administration. I 
cannot guarantee that the opportunity 
to partnership is as open as you would 
like it to be. But the door is neither 
closed nor locked... 

... We intend to tighten our stan- 
dards for recruiting administration 
personnel and for keeping them on 
the payroll. Any efforts we make in 
the office to upgrade the overall 
image of administration will not 
succeed, unless we support those 
efforts with a sound system to keep 
the dead wood out... 

... The most important action 
[taken by the firml is that we have 
now opened some minds and attitudes 
to the point that you have the 
opportunity to take control of your 
personal destiny." 

Thanks to our friends among the 
office staff at Arthur Andersen & Co. 
for sending this in! 

th ep e e /"; //o Ve 



The Craig Agency 

44 Montgomery St., Wells Fargo Building, San Francisco, California 94104 










The Typist Addresses 

Her IBM Selectric 

1 »000,000 MemoryWriter 250D 

Dear Sir: 

Weekdays I start your heart at 8. Maybe I'll take 
you to the beach some Saturday. Would you like to come 
to church with me? Say yes, Please say yes! 

Disappointment. I'm so used to it I can't imagine 
life without it. The buses don't come when they're 
supposed to, my toilet runs, last week some kids ran 
my cat over on purpose and screeched off laughing-the 
police lost the license number (I gave them my copy I'd 
written down and then RAN to a phone booth and found the 
nearest precinct and took a cab there), LOST IT! noth- 
ing works, everyone's evil or incompetent, except you... 



Page 2 

You can take a mistake and make it disappear on the spot 
quick as I can move, and I move fast, and you ve got ev- 
erything in your perfect little brain somewhere under 
that grainy black surface. 

What a head for #s ! Will your memory fail when you 
get old and all the young computers titter? Don't worry, 
I won't let them. I can tell you like my humming as we 
sail along, your margin bell always dings in perfect time. 
We make such beautiful music together! 

Just for toi (mon cher) I stayed up past midnight two 
weeks straight memorizing your instruction booklet, not w 
word for word of course, like you do, but I still know e- 
nough to keep my lambykins happy and healthy as a paid va- 
cation. I'm even considering going to night school to 
learn to repair you. Then we can play doctor: tres kinky, 
my magic little box of beckoning electrodes, my double- 
spacing demon. 

Oh, sometimes I feel so clumsy next to you and your 
perfect borders. But you need me a little too. What a team 
we are!/ Translating their horrid chickenscratch into such 
wonderful black&white symmetry. I love to just sit there 
and watch you type out a whole letter from memory. . .Once I went 
out with a guy who sounded exactly like you when he walked 
, I think he was a tap dancer, he bored me, but you turn 
me on so much, so very very much much much. 

And how you toy with mei: You know how jealous I am. 
MR. POPULARITY around the office, you are; you never take 
the last cup of coffee in the pot and scald the bottom, 
like some people I won't mention, and the supervisor loves 
you because you may break down once in a long long while 
but never ewery cry, (like some other people named Marianne 
Anderson who shal remain anonymousO, don't think I don't 
see the way that bitch looks at you and brushes against 
your carriage when she flits by.. 

One of these days I'm going to take you home forever, 
my little pumpkin, put you on my laplap once and for all a 
nd we can sit in front of the tv happilly ever after, maybe 
write a letter together every once in a while, maybe, not. 
I have a dimmer dial in my bedroom, and... oh I can't stand 
it, quit playing with my heart you dark brute, it's almost 
time for break and parting is such sweet sorrow, vur I 
must or they'll talk, thsy'll talk talk talk talk talk, 
my fingerxRxixxtios are on fire with a love-pink glow. 

Dearest, I'm yours, 

fyUU, Co^dJUt 
Julie (Capalet) 


it - 

ThatOffice! Presented by Gulf of theFarallones,Inc. a 
non-profit theater group; written by Melinda Mills, 
directed by Karl Danskin, performed by Patricia Falvey, 
Carol Loud and Lisa Brown. 

That Office ! was conceived, written and performed by 
and for clerical workers. Author Melinda Mills wrote the 
script after a stint as a secretary, and director Karl 
Danskin sought out actresses with experience in the 
office world. The original intention of the company was 
to perform for office workers during lunch-hours in San 
Francisco and Oakland's financial districts. Afternoon 
performances have been limited, however, due to bad 
weather and problems finding indoor performance 



Given the radical content of the play, 
it is not surprising that the company 
received little response to requests for 
performance space in office lounges 
and cafeterias. Hopefully, That Of- 
fice! will be played in financial district 
parks come spring. 
The company's attempt to involve 
the audience in the performance links 
them to the avant-garde project of 
dissolving the separation between 
spectators and performers, art and 
life. A rejection of the notion of art as 
a privileged sphere and artists as 
stars removed from the humdrum of 
daily life is implicit in the perfor- 
mance. "Theatrical" conventions are 
downplayed. The actors use little 
make-up and mingle with the aud- 
ience after the show, while set and 
structure are reduced to a bare, but 
effective minimum. The set — con- 
sisting of a desk, chair and cardboard 
imitations of a typewriter, filing 
cabinet and other assorted office 
furnishings — is stylized but realistic, 
with the genuine look and feel of an 
office. That this should be so well 
conveyed by plain cardboard is an 

ingenious comment on how bland and 
colorless most offices are. 

As in Brechtian theater, the perfor- 
mance is not just entertainment or 
diversion, nor is it designed to 
overwhelm the viewer with spectacu- 
lar effects, but rather to incite her to 
critical reflection. At the same time, 
and contrary to Brecht's theory, we 
can readily identify with "the secre- 
tary," the main character in the play. 

The starkness of the play contrasts 
sharply with its emotional impact. 
People in the audience frequently 
remarked how much the play con- 
firmed their own experiences. The 
petty tasks that make up the day's 
routine, the bosses' crass, sexist, 
infantile behavior and their grotesque 
expectations of the secretary, 
along with her own fantasies, self- 
delusions, humiliation and despair , 
are summed up in a series of short 
prose-poems which form a bitter, yet 
humorous condemnation of the tragic 
waste of human life-time that goes on 
in "that office", i.e. any office. 

Some of the most insightful mo- 
ments in the play are also the most 

She becomes the aggressive seductress. 



painful. For example, the secretary's 
sexual fantasies expose the contra- 
dictory ways that sexual tensions and 
frustrations are internalized and 
played out in the imagination. The 
bosses, personified in Peggy's dis- 
dainful descriptions and as taped 
voices, are insensitive, idiotic and 

Have you ever seen grown 
adults — adult men — who 
get paid fifty grand a year 
acting like children? Well 
they do! They throw tan- 
trums, act silly, try to make 
you laugh, demand that you 
do things for them immed- 
iately. It's too much! Those 
men! My two always want 
graham crackers and milk at 
2 PM. Then they put their 
heads down and take a 
nap!. ..And they throw a fit if 
I answer the phone "Mis- 
ter ' ' instead of ' 'Doctor ' ' — 
people think they have the 
wrong number! And one of 
them is always losing his 
socks and he whines until I 
look all over his office and 
find them for him. How do 
their wives handle them ? I 
just don 't know. 

Yet in her erotic fantasies, 

The Woman 

rubs up against the handle of the 

paper cutter while she sorts the 

and longs to grab the man she works for 
by the balls, fuck him till he 
can 't stand up, then walk back to 
her desk and type up the Quarterly 
Report to the Chief. 

As a woman, she 
tantalizes the heterosexual man. 

The bureaucrat-business man 

seething with 
semen, like warm mayonnaise filling 
the hot receptacles between his legs, 
desires a woman to assist him with his 
necessary duties. 

At these moments the secretary 
becomes the aggressive seductress, 
proving herself on "their" terms. 
Most audiences have come to accept 
critical portrayals of sex roles and how 
certain kinds of behavior are imposed 
on women, but few women are willing 
to own up to the darker secrets of 
desire. Certain uptight people may 
feel outraged and shocked by these 
scenes. On the other hand, I noticed 
they were also received with loud — 
perhaps overloud — laughter from 
some women in the audience. 

The effort to confront the reality of 
office life in all its emptiness {"This is 
reality?'' the secretary asks herself 
unbelievingly at one point) sometimes 
exaggerates its coldness. The play 
neglects the small complicities, the 



moments of warmth and understand- 
ing shared with co-workers that help 
pass the time, and without which the 
workday would be completely insuf- 

Not that the secretary appears 
altogether dehumanized. One of the 
main sources of dramatic tension in 
the play comes from a sense of the 
chasm that exists between the self- 
less, efficient "down-to-earth" auto- 
maton the secretarial role demands, 
and the secretary's own (very human) 
longings for tenderness and passion. 

In a wonderful counterpoint scene, 
the secretary muses tenderly about a 
man in the office to whom she feels 
attracted. Meanwhile, on the other 
side of the stage, one of the "other 
secretaries" (there are two of them on 
stage at all times) offers a stream of 
banalities, ostensibly as practical 
advice to a woman questioning the 
direction of her life: 

It 's your choice you know 

Only you can get what you want from 


It's up to you 

You're still young enough to change 


you could easily make 

All the necessary arrangements 

In another, less successful segment, 
"A Woman", the vision of the 
"womanly" side of the character 
borders on sentimentalism: 

The Woman 








In general, however, this tension 
helps convey a sense of rebelliousness 
which contrasts with the feeling of 
resignation that pervades "Stuck," 
another play about the office world 

performed at Fort Mason by the 
Magic Theater in late 1981. Like That 
Office!, Stuck presents familiar office 
characters in a familiar setting — 
4 'stuck' ' in a traffic jam on the way to 
and from work. The play was innova- 
tively staged in a large warehouse 
with real cars. At its best, Stuck offers 
a realistic picture of the hypocrisy, 
emptiness and deep frustrations that 
abound in the office world. But 
although we can recognize the char- 
acters portrayed, we do not identify 
with them. It's not just that they're 
unsympathetic, but rather that the 
author has not gotten under their 
skin, as Mills does in That Office! The 
grossest example of the superficiality 
of Stuck was the stereotype of a 
female file clerk as a mindless 
nymphomaniac, who seems neither to 
want nor to deserve any better than 
her lowly position in the office — 
except sex. 

If it weren't for the poetry and 
humor of the script, and the charm of 
the actress, That Office! might be a 
depressing play. As it is, the subver- 
sive possibilities of humor and irony 
are ingeniously exploited in sections 
like "The Variety of Possibilities," 
which ridicules the rhetoric of free- 
dom and individual opportunity, often 
used to assuage the consciences of 
those who have achieved wealth and 

The variety of possibilities 
always apparent 
just within my reach 

the endless variety 

of possibilities 

young, white and American 

even being a female doesn *t 

hurt my chances that much 

does it? 

that dreaded variety 

of possibilities 

how can I possibly turn down 

so many opportunities? 



Coming from a captive in the office, 
this cliche leaves a bitter taste in 
one's mouth. Other choice bits are 
"Hilarity" ("// I could just keep 
laughing, everything would be OK) 
and "Insanity." In the latter, the 
three characters comically repeat 
familiar phrases "Things are crazy 
here. This job is making me crazy. His 
wife is insanely jealous. ' ' In the 
context that has been created, the 
casual daily references to insanity 
take on a deeper meaning. We are 
made aware of the naked truth to 
which daily usage of these words has 
numbed us. 

Unfortunately, the quality of per- 
formance varied in the two shows I 
saw. Nonetheless, Patricia Falvey 
(who acts in the evening perfor- 
mances) is a very powerful actress, 
and for the most part skillfully handles 
the extraordinary variety of moods in 
the play. The script itself is very 
demanding, as it concentrates atten- 

tion on the main actress throughout 
most of the play. The two supporting 
actresses functioned as part of the set 
during most of the performance — 
repeating mimed office chores. More 
interaction with the supporting act- 
resses might have relieved the occa- 
sionally taxing focus on the secre- 
tary's monologue. The rare variations 
in staging were welcome. Particularly 
successful was the use of a cranky 
displaying a poem against a sonic 
backdrop of taped animal noises. 
The best scene involving all three 
actresses was the closing finale, "Am 
I the Only One?", an animated dance 
routine to a tune resembling "La 
Bamba." The trio's obvious enjoy- 
ment in this scene was contagious, 
and provides an answer to the 
question "Am I the Only One?" The 
answer is no, and That Officers 
portrayal of an individual's exper- 
rience in the clerical world goes a long 
way in showing us why. 

— By Maxine Holz 

^if mrniirwmi » (iit W ii(tT m iiii wm )iiiwmiirw H ti| in HHiii«HiHtiH WHi i n i i ii m ii w wii iwun"" «i n tw*i i if t»tHu i'^ 


A totally underground publication, Processed World 
accepts no advertisements and is supported entirely by 
readers' donations. Produced by a fluctuating group of 
dissidents and malcontents, most of whom are working 
in SF's Financial District as "information handlers," 
the magazine has been established to facilitate contact 
between dissatisfied, rebellious office workers, and to 
provide an outlet for critical reflections on the modern 

SUBSCRIPTIONS (For 4 issues) 

Steady Income $10 

Low Income $ 5 

Libraries/ Institutions & Overseas Residents $15 

Sustainers $25 

Corporations & Governmental Agencies $150 

fire you doing the processing ? 


Occupation, Vocation 
U Notify me of 

upcoming Processed 

World events. 

...or are you being processed? Processed world 

= = «~ 55 Sutter St. #829 

or Avocation: 

□ I want to distribute 
Processed World in 
my area or office. 
Send me ( ) copies. 

San Francisco, CA 94104 




The following people helped produce Processed World 
#4. Thanks to everyone who contributed creatively or 
financially to the project. 

Louis Michaelson, Clayton Sheridan, Maxine Holz, 
Helen Highwater, Gidget Digit, Fanya Baron, Chris 
Winks, J. Gulesian, Kurt Lipschutz, Richard Laubach, 
Steve Stallone, Fran Now, David Steinberg, Mr. 
Wizard, Melinda Gebbie, and Lucius Cabins. 




From Frans Masereel, The Passionate Journey